David Drake, an author best-known for his works of military science
fiction, enters the realm of fantasy with Lord of the Isles.
Quite obviously the beginning of a new trilogy, Drake's foray into
fantasy should pull some diehard SF fans in with him. Whether or not he
can draw dedicated fantasists into his fold remains to be seen.
The tiny coastal village of Barca's Hamlet is threatened by little --
occasional seawolf raids on pasturing sheep herds is about as serious
as trouble gets. But when the waters wash up a wizardess who's been
adrift on the tides of time for a thousand years, and the same waters
bring in a high court official and a young wizard searching for the
true child of a count to shore up the legitimacy of the king's rule,
nothing will ever be the same for five residents of Barca's Hamlet.
The young wizard Meder and procurator Asera determine that seventeen-
year-old Sharina os-Reise is in fact of royal lineage, beginning
Sharina's sea voyage to the capital city of Ornifal. Nonnus, a hermit
with a past he lives to forget, agrees to accompany Sharina on the trip,
on which he will prove to be her only real friend and protector against
the heartless machinations of the wizard Meder and Asera.
Sharina's leave-taking breaks Cashel or-Kenset's heart, and he swears to
leave Barca's Hamlet behind. Benlo, a sheep drover with hidden motives,
agrees to take Cashel on to drive his sheep to a waiting ship in Carcosa
Harbor. Garric or-Reise, Sharina's brother, decides to journey with his
friend. Garric is driven by disturbing dreams in which Carus, who was Lord of the
Isles in the castaway wizardess Tenoctris' time, urges him to find the
darkly magic Throne of Malkar, and by the revelation that he is no more
truly his parents' child than his sister was. Tenoctris and Ilna, Cashel's
sister, join the young friends on their journey. Tenoctris comes to
help Garric as his quest takes shape, and Ilna because she secretly
Dark forces will work to ruin those on both journeys. The queen, whose
interests are decidedly not the same as the king's, will work
to destroy Sharina as this newly discovered heir to the royal line of
Haft and the hermit Nonnus sail ever closer to Ornifal. The evil
Hooded One will seek to eliminate obstacles -- including Garric,
Tenoctris, Cashel and Ilna -- to his own quest for the Throne of Malkar.
Friendships will be strained, minds shattered, and the arrogant misuse
of magic will endanger the very lives of the questers as they struggle
to fulfill their destinies.
Lord of the Isles tells an interesting story -- the plot is
sound and the sources of magic well-imagined. The only weakness in the
book, but a remarkably distracting one, is the abruptness with which
suspenseful scenes occur. Drake leaves the reader little time to feel
the tension of rising action before the climax is suddenly there and past.
If the pacing of the sequel (for surely there will be a sequel) relaxes
just a bit, this could be the beginning of a major crossover success
for David Drake.