This is a very simple story told in very flowery language. There’s a vicious conquering people (the Myetrans), a simple village whose inhabitants don’t even have a word for ‘weapon’ (Ciron), and a group of creatures with wings (the, uh, Winged Ones) who mostly stay out of everybody’s way. Oh, and two of those groups don’t wear any clothes, just to add to the rusticness and innocence. When the Myetrans come to conquer the hell out of the next town down the road (it’s nothing personal), Cironian Rahm finds strength and anger in himself he never knew existed, and a berserker warrior is born. Also, some unlikely alliances with the Winged Ones.
That’s really it. Fight, fight back, some escapes and rescues, some losses and sacrifices. Few characters besides Rahm get much story devoted to them. However, the book reads like this:
“If, in fact, he had dreamed some beast had, howsoever, been thrust with him into his sleeping bag, and he’d waked to find it clawing and biting at his unarmored belly and unhelmeted face to get free, it would have been exactly as frightening as the realization that this incarnation of evil, who had wildly and insanely murdered Mrowky, was now wreaking death and murder (an arc of blood followed the Cironian’s ax blade through the air) among the dozen men around him!”
That’s all one sentence. These fantasy writers can really ramble, can’t they? But it gives the story a nice hefty feel, like every single thing that’s happening is super important. It’s a fun, quick read, even though it follows all the familiar fantasy beats. There are two really odd and unnecessary epilogues, though, like the author wasn’t quite ready to leave this world he’d created.
Overall, I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. The book jacket goes on and on about how great Samuel R. Delany is, though, so perhaps I’ll check out some more.