An old myth about a magic diamond sends an empire into upheaval in Lartigue’s debut YA fantasy novel, the first in a series.
A group of soldiers from the Ilyrian Empire have ventured beyond their borders in order to steal a crystal held sacred by the “barbarian”Pagani, sparking an uprising. Back in the Ilyrian capital, Jesut Edin, 13-year-old Brill learns the story of the jewel—the Ayn Noor—from his governess: “They say that if a person touches it, one of two things will happen: they will either gaze upon the bright shores of eternity, or they will be cast into the dark corridors of madness,” she says. Diamond merchant Emhet Turan is sent to the far northern temple city of Okomorling to appraise the gem on behalf of the crown prince; to the Christian Ilyrians, it’s nothing more than a piece of treasure—or so Emhet thinks. Roan, a young Pagani warrior, participates in the revolt to recapture the diamond until she learns that its theft may fulfill an ancient prophecy that involves young Brill, a quiet, unassuming boy who likes to try on his older sister’s dresses. As Ayn Noor makes its way to Jesut Edin, conspirators and innocents are drawn into its fateful orbit. Lartigue’s prose is filled with drama and mystery, befitting the high-fantasy milieu. For instance, “the theft of the Ayn Noor has set in motion certain configurations,” a shaman tells Roan. “New actors are being summoned, new deeds will hasten a new era. The past will be set aflame. The real question becomes, What will rise from the ashes?” Overall, the fictional world is a rich and complex one. It features some derivative genre elements but also some imaginative flourishes and idiosyncratic choices, such as the existence of Christianity in what appears to be a fully invented setting. The plot takes some time to truly get going, and the reader will eventually realize that the most exciting material is likely being saved for later books, as this one seems primarily occupied with stage-setting. Fans of epic tales will find much to enjoy.
A promising first entry in a new fantasy saga.
Pub Date: yesterday
Page Count: 352
Publisher: One & Twenty Books
Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2020