James G. Anderson and Mark Sebanc
Baen, Sep 2009, $14.99
The king of Ahn Norvys is assassinated and the queen and their infant heir are kidnapped. With a power vacuum looming, the powerful Mindal merchant council select dangerous Gawmage as the ruler although many object though none as strongly as those in the highlander Stoneholding keep in Arvon.
It has been almost two decades since the murder and Gawmage has tightened his control through a powerful army that is strangling the kingdom. The only hope to rally opposition resides with the lost Prince Starigan, whom has not surfaced in all that time. Gawmage’s army seems set to destroy all holdouts including Arvon. Although feeling ancient and achy, the High Bard of Arvon Wilum knows time has run out as the Black Scorpion Dragoons attack. He will need to venture out of the devastated keep for the first time in decades and pray that the sacred artifacts that he guards diligently, the Sacred Fire and the Talamahd golden harp, will remain safe while he, his apprentice Kalaquinn Wright, and a few ragged survivors of the assault search for the lost prince and find a way to relight the Sacred Fire.
With a nod to Beowulf and Tolkien, the strong cast (especially the intrepid brilliant apprentice and his dedicated intelligent master) makes for an exciting energizing epic fantasy. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action although some spins seem doubtful with what is known in this realm. Still fans will relish this super saga once the audience understands Baen has left at least for STONEHOLDING the science fiction and alternate history genres.