Medalon is a small country surrounded by vast nations, beset by conflict from outside and within its borders. The power-hungry Sisters of the Blade are the current rulers, and the manipulative Joyhinia is determined to become their leader. Joyhinia's daughter R'shiel has become disillusioned with the infighting and backstabbing, and determines to take her own path when a series of events leaves her branded a traitor and hunted, along with her brother Tarja, by the Sisters' Defenders.
Jumping right in with murder and political intrigue, the story starts off with a bang, and R'shiel's journey makes for exciting reading. There are, of course, the large cast of characters and tangled plotlines typical of huge epic fantasies. The main characters embody universal human traits that make them easy to understand and relate to, particularly in the family conflict that sets events in motion.
This is a good, solid start to what will no doubt be an epic series. Fallon's writing is strong enough to make a somewhat formulaic story fresh, and she handles complex political maneuvering with ease. Epic fantasy readers will no doubt want to follow this story through several more hefty volumes. (May, 432 pp., $24.95)
Jen Talley Exum