The Ruins of Ambrai
Melanie Rawn
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Get *Exiles: Ruins of Ambrai* delivered to your door! Exiles: The Ruins of Ambrai
Melanie Rawn
Daw Books
838 pages
November 1995
rated 4 of 4 possible stars

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Melanie Rawn, author of the "Dragon Star" and "Dragon Prince" trilogies, has begun a new series, "Exiles." With the first book of the sequence, The Ruins of Ambrai, she has started off with quite a bang.

Curled Up With a Good BookA milennium ago, people born with magic fled to Lenfell to escape persecution. In this beautiful refuge they hoped to build their own society. But lust for power and differing philosophies soon divided these Mageborns into two factions -- Mage Guardians and Malerrisi. The struggle between the two exploded into all-out war, and Lenfell was devastated. Wild Magic polluted everything and created a new species of horror, the Wraithenbeasts. In an effort to weed out the genetic damage caused by the Wild Magic, the people of Lenfell imposed upon themselves a rigid breeding caste system, and a society of privileged Bloods and progressively disenfranchised Tiers was born.

Almost a thousand years later, Lenfell and its population have nearly recovered from the wounds of the war, though scars remain. The need for the Tiered society of Names is gone, but the system is entrenched. Those who reap the greatest benefits from the system are loathe to give up their power and privilege. More insidious is the age-old rivalry between the Malerrisi and the Mage Guardians. Generations of plotting and planning for a final bid at total power have brought the two Mageborn factions once again to the brink of war. At the same time, a rebellion against the government is brewing. Into this Lenfell, three sisters are born with Magic. Fate and conspiracy will pull each onto the path of her own separate destiny, but these paths will converge to remake the destiny of a world.

The Ruins of Ambrai might boast enough pages to make an effective doorstop, but its pace and precision make for a good compelling read. Elements of sword, sorcery, layers of intrigue in court and out: The Ruins of Ambrai has got it all, cunningly interwoven. And to a genre of series installments that often leave the hapless reader hanging for two years until the next book comes out, The Ruins of Ambrai brings a beautiful thing: a series opener that truly gives you a sense of closure, of a good fight well-fought. Don't worry; the denouement promises this won't be the last battle in the war.

Rawn has achieved another remarkable surprise in The Ruins of Ambrai: villains who are more than caricatured Evil. Motives, personal history, the reasons behind the choices; all reveal human beings with human weaknesses and strengths. The Ruins of Ambrai is an auspicious beginning to what might end up being one of the best fantasy series in recent years.

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