cover image King's Dragon

King's Dragon

Kate Elliott. Daw Books, $22.95 (544pp) ISBN 978-0-88677-727-2

Hard on the heels of her intriguing collaboration with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson, The Golden Key (Forecasts, Aug. 19), comes the first volume of Elliott's new high fantasy trilogy--and it proves an entirely captivating affair. Elliott works staple fantasy elements of battle, quest and loss into a resounding narrative revolving around three appealing protagonists. Alain is an adopted youth of unknown parentage, gentle with men and beasts, now intended for the monastery. He experiences a vision from the Lady of Battles, drawing him into the civil war between Wendar's King Henry and the king's sister Sabella, who claims the throne. Meanwhile, Liath is left an orphan incapable of realizing her considerable magical powers when the Aoi, enigmatic beings from a shadowy Otherworld, murder her father. She must escape from her eerily magnetic but sadistic human captor to join King Henry's messenger Eagles, witnessing savage battles against the nonhuman Eika fearfully ravaging Wendar's northern coasts. Dominating the novel, though, is a shining hero to haunt one's dreams--Sanglant, captain of the Dragons, Henry's elite heavy cavalry, and Henry's son by an Aoi woman who stole the king's heart when she vanished from human sight. Elliott models her world from a thorough understanding of medieval European history, leavened with imaginative twists of perspective, such as a monolithic church that recognizes a Lady as well as a Lord of Creation and is dominated by a female hierarchy. She skews language, too, just enough to make it both satisfyingly familiar and tangily other--an indispensable technique in conjuring convincing fictional worlds that never were, but that we, whether young or young in heart, wish could be. (Feb.)