This is a pretty typical mid-90s fantasy. It’s decent, but nothing particularly amazing. Still, there are worse books to spend a few hours with. And the thing that interests me most about the novel is not the actual book, but the publishing history.
Reandn is a Wolf in the Kings Keep. As near as I can tell this means he’s a palace guard but more responsible for patrolling the outside of the keep as opposed to the inside (The Hounds) but not too far, because then he’s a Fox? Except maybe that’s not true either, as there were some implications that the Wolfs did roam some. Sorry, sidetracked. It’s not super important, and I suspect there may be other novels that deal more with the politics and rankings of Durgin’s world. Right, so palace guard. He’s married with an adopted son. She works for the wizard, except he’s not much of a wizard because magic disappeared from the world a few years ago (probably around 20). Anyway, boys start disappearing. Durgin investigates. And then tragedy strikes and he finds out that magic isn’t really quite as gone as people think it is, oh it’s mostly gone but not all the way gone. As his manner of this discovery is quite traumatic he’s dead set against magic in all forms. The rest of the novel is a revenge type quest.
There are a couple of things I really liked about the novel. The first is that this is a complete novel, while there is a sequel this story is complete once the novel ends. That feels almost revolutionary in a world where cliffhanger endings are a dime a dozen. Also, I hate cliffhanger endings. If you can’t finish a plot in one novel, then you make the novel fucking longer. Ahem. Anyway, I like that I’m not left biting my fingers about what happens, it’s all laid out. There are a couple of plot lines and arcs that are introduced in order to entice you to read further, but it’s more along the lines of, oh I wonder what’ll happen with that plot line, and not, OH GOD WHYYYYYYYYYYY.
The other thing I really liked is that the book just felt comfortable. Like I said, the story isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it’s just a comfortable read. And I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I actually liked Reandn as a character, but I thought he was kind of an asshole so not really. He’s not the worst exactly, but he’s just abrasive and has a lot of sharp edges. Part of that abrasiveness is the fact that the book deals with his tragedy, but he was kind of like that before hand so it’s not all of it. But the book itself is just comfort. It’s possible that’s because it is, as I said, very typical mid-90s fantasy and so it feels much like a lot of books I read as a teen.
The thing that most interests about the book though is the publishing history. As I was reading I noticed a couple of wording and grammatical errors. Nothing particularly grave, but one did throw me out of the text. It read very much like someone re-wrote a sentence, started at the wrong word, and left the offending word in place. So something like “he ran through by the meadow”. It was weird. So I looked at the publisher name on Goodreads and did a quick Google search. Self published. Which I was kind of excited about, had I finally found a self-published novel I didn’t hate? But then I looked at the publishing date 1996. And while I know there were self-published novels in 1996, they were a hell of a lot more uncommon. So I did a bit more research (I read the author’s note at the beginning of the book) and found out that the novel had originally been published by Baen and had been brushed up by the author for the electronic release. Which makes a lot more sense. And I’m totally impressed that she did that. I’m guessing that the rights to her novel expired or Baen released them back to her. She dusts it off and releases it herself in electronic format. It’s really smart, because it means that her novel made the transition from book to electronic form, there are a lot of Baen paperbacks from the same time period that probably didn’t.
As a bonus, isn’t this the most Baen paperback cover ever? I’m not sure why this picture (which was the cover Goodreads showed me) didn’t tip me off that it was a Baen paperback at some point.