The beautiful Averil is heir to the Duchy of Quitaine, in the Kingdom of Lys. She is a powerful mage, trained by the Ladies of the Isle, but when her father calls her home to take up her duties, she must leave that life behind. In her city of Fontevrai, she meets Gereint, raised as a common villager but greatly gifted in magic, a novice of the magical order of the Knights of the Rose.
The Knights and their sister order, the Ladies of the Isle, defend a great secret: the means and location of the Serpent's imprisonment a thousand years ago by the Young God in whose name their order was founded.
Quitaine is under subtle attack by the King of Lys, who has secretly become an adept of the hidden order of the Serpent, and he will let nothing and no one stand in the way of his quest to discover how to free his God. But the Knights of the Rose, and the Ladies of the Isle believe that if the Serpent is freed, the world will be enslaved to chaos: humanity will destroy itself, and all that man has made will be corrupted.
The War of the Rose and Serpent has begun again, after a thousand years.
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Strong, elegant writing lifts Bryan's fantasy debut. Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Lys, the Young God's forces captured and imprisoned the evil Serpent. Now, a thousand years later, the Serpent's forces are rising again, determined to defeat the Young God's paladins, the Knights of the Rose, and return the great deity to power. Duke Urien leads the opposition against Serpent ally Clodovec, the king of Lys. When Clodovec has Urien poisoned, Urien's daughter, Averil, becomes evil's next target. Averil flees with the Knights of the Rose and befriends Gereint, a commoner whose magical talent could be the greatest in generations if he manages to learn how to control its tremendous power. In order to stand against the Serpent's forces, Averil and Gereint must bargain with ancient forces long held taboo. Such a bargain, once struck, could leave Averil and her people vulnerable to their own allies. In the crowded epic fantasy field, Bryan's series opener stands out with its intriguing characters and a vivid story rich with potential.