For millennia, the great city of Idriss, City of Lights, has stood almost completely isolated from the world. Bordered by a seemingly endless forest from which few return, the city has relied for protection on its walls and the bravery of its soldiers, such as the elite Crimson Hunt. But when the beloved warrior Mellias, the leader of the Hunt, is found brutally murdered — the first victim of a strange and elusive killer — the city’s fate falls into the hands of the Huntsman Vidar. If Vidar were simply a soldier, his burden would be heavy enough; but Vidar is also a dark mystery, even to himself. Years before Mellias’s murder, he stumbled out of the forest with amnesia and, embedded in his chest, an amber jewel that feeds on the life forces of Vidar’s foes or, when foes are lacking, on Vidar himself. With the help of his fellow Huntsmen, the resolute Asgrim and cynical Cheyne; the methodical Inquisitor Rhiannon; and the erratic sorcerer Greer an’ Lokh, Vidar must stop the killer before Idriss succumbs to panic and must unravel the inextricably related threads of his unknown past before they enmesh him and his adopted home.
Written by the prolific Mark Chadbourn, a two-time winner of the British Fantasy Award, Lord of Silence (537 pages) is a fast-paced, sword-against-sorcery mystery that can stand on its own (the end leaves ample room for a sequel.) Mr. Chadbourn’s writing is straightforward and usually clear and, at its best, is reminiscent of the much-missed David Gemmell (Legend). Vidar’s struggle to keep his vampiric jewel sated is depicted well, and Cheyne and Greer an’ Lokh stand out as familiar yet vividly realized characters.
The plot seemed to wander and take an odd turn toward the end, but all in all, fans of (relatively clean) sword-and-sorcery will find much here to like. (A few other quibbles: (1) it seemed odd that the names ran the gamut from Greer an’ Lokh to Rhiannon to Lud to LeStrange to Xiang Chai-Shekh; (2) the tale would have been more clear with a map to emphasize the city’s isolation; (3) more needed to be done to make the city’s predicament absolutely convincing. For example, fields and farmlands are mentioned, since people need to eat, so how surrounded is the city? And over thousands of years, wouldn’t people either move away from the horrible forest or start cutting down trees, at least one line a day, to thin and shrink the enemy’s habitat?)
Recommended as a library loan for fans of sword-and-sorcery or fantasy mysteries. Three vampiric amber jewels.