cover image Child of Flame

Child of Flame

Kate Elliott. Daw Books, $24.95 (850pp) ISBN 978-0-88677-892-7

The fourth of what is intended to be a five-volume epic series, this exceedingly stout high fantasy novel stands comparatively independent of the three preceding it. Continuing their deadly rivalry for the throne, King Henry of Wendar and his bastard son, Sanglant, enlist the aid of their siblings as they conjure spells and clash swords. Meanwhile, Sanglant has an heir of his own, the Cursed Ones (beings from one of the several alternate planes that exist in this saga) capture his wife, and his nonhuman mother returns, bearing prophecies of such imminent and dire doom that nobody believes her until disaster is upon them. Newcomers to this series will appreciate the narrative's brisk pacing, as well as Elliott's formidably competent world building (particularly the courts and the village of the Hallowed One) and carefully considered systems of magic and tactics that display more than an average knowledge of military history, religion and folklore. Some readers may find this installment too long and complex, though, and lacking, at critical points, the emotional impact and characterization that Tolkien or more recent fantasists such as Jordan, Hobb and Orson Scott Card bring to works of similar complexity. Although devout Elliott fans and lovers of long, convoluted fantasy tales will find her latest to be more than satisfactory, the novel's lack of precision may limit its appeal. (Oct.)