Karen Hancock's Legends of the Guardian-King series is fantasy writing at its best. I give it my highest recommendation for characterization, story, descriptions, locations, and theme.
Picking up where "The Light of Eidon" left off (yet easily enjoyed by readers who haven't read this first volume), The Shadow Within
begins with Abramm Kalladorne sailing home to claim his rightful place as King of Kiriath.
It doesn't go smoothly, of course, and before he even reaches shore he has to confront a leviathan-like beast called a kraggin, which may have been created by wicked mystics bent on destroying the kingdom. Then he has to confront his younger brother, Gillard, who has been running the country into the ground.
And that's just the beginning.
Once he's on the throne, the problems continue. His troubles range from learning the latest dance step to pacify palace gossips and minimize royal intrigue to evading assassination attempts to facing another malevolent being called a morwhol, which was created specifically to kill Abramm and all his kin.
Not to mention handling a busybody second daughter from a neighboring kingdom, who repeatedly sticks her nose in where it doesn't belong-except that her insights and pronouncements turn out to be very helpful indeed.
Elsewhere, Abramm's estranged and formerly beloved sister, Carissa, hides in the hinterlands from her sadistic husband. When she hears that Abramm is back in the kingdom, she refuses to go down and meet him until she is forced into the treacherous journey by dire circumstances.
Whew! The pacing of these varied plots is masterfully handled. Each thread builds its own inner tensions, and the strands come together in surprising and satisfying ways.
The ultimate climax of the story is breathtaking, unpredictable, and gratifying while still leaving loose ends to be picked up by the next
- Will Gillard survive?
- Where is Carissa's husband now?
- Will the budding romance between Abramm and the plain-looking, plainspoken second daughter develop into something that could threaten relations with Kiriath's neighbors?
- When will the Armies of the Black Moon attack?
If the third book measures up to the first two, fantasy readers have much to look forward to in Karen Hancock's Legends of the Guardian King.