Prince Jalan Kendeth is a pampered, self-centered rogue, a scoundrel, a womanizer. He’s hardly hero material, which he will tell you himself, except that when trying to escape one battle he accidentally led a charge into another one, a feat that made his people call him hero and his enemies call him devil.
When Jal tries to escape an enchantment the mysterious “Silent Sister” has placed over an opera house full of patrons, he literally runs into a fierce Norse warrior named Snorri Snagason. Both men are impacted by the failed curse, which causes them harm either if they part ways or make direct contact with each other. Effectively bound together until they find a way to reverse the curse, Jal joins Snorri on a mission to rescue his kidnapped family. The fact that he’s wanted by the local crime lord has nothing to do with it.
Jal and Snorri begin a quest that leads through wilderness, barbarian towns, mountains filled with undead soldiers, and ruins of “ancient”civilizations as they draw ever closer to a fortress planted on the edge of a glacier, the “Bitter Ice.” What they find there, and what they are willing to sacrifice, may determine the fate of the world.
This story is told mostly through the point of view of Jal, who paints a picture of a dark, unforgiving world, where the value of a man can be measured by the sharpness of his steel or the gold in his pocket. The narration is occasionally broken up by the storytelling efforts of Snorri, whose flashbacks reveal hints into the larger plot.
This latest installment into the author’s Broken Empire universe started off a little slow, but picked up momentum about a third of the way in. The suspense kept me practically on the edge of my seat towards the end of the story, and I was still guessing all the way up to the final chapter.
Though this book is the first of a trilogy, and is part of a larger universe, it still had enough resolution to be read as stand alone, which is a plus to me. For all of these reasons, I award this book 4.5 stars, and recommend it to anyone interested in the fantasy genre, as well as fans of paranormal and dystopian stories.