Off the Shelf

“Myrren’s Gift”

By Marcus Pan

Myrren's GiftFiona McIntosh rides a fine line between verbose and fluid, somehow finding a thin line to walk between the two to deliver such as her second trilogy, The Quickening. Beginning with Myrren’s Gift, we are introduced to a fantasy world – of course – without the usual trappings of consistent magic, abysmal dragons and orcish lairs. Instead we have a more real-world glimpse concentrating on the subterfuge of men in particular as three kingdoms stand on the verge of outright war amongst each other with no obvious winner should this happen, all having their own strengths and weaknesses.

If might makes right, then Morgravia should be the victor with its grippingly strong Legion of soldiers. But with the death of the benevolent and wise King Magnus, and ascension of his dark hearted and power hungry son Prince Celimus, this particular realm is busy fending off its own inbreeding of lies and deceit. Masterfully crafted plans waver on the crux of discovery, being cunningly wrought time and again by the young and boorish new king as more threads of treachery must be drawn out to cover the previously wrought lies. It is Celimus’ hope to wed the newly ascended Queen Valentyna of neighboring nation Briavel, who’s untimely step up to the throne weakens Morgravia’s neighboring foe through the lofty construct of Celimus’ own threadbare web.

However if it’s goodness that karma upholds, then Briavel’s weakened state at the assassination of their King Valor and the sudden move of Princess Valentyna to take his place as their sovereign, they would nonetheless see the outcome in their favor. Chased by the political aspirations of a neighboring nation who for many years have warred with her people who under the guise of peace seeks her hand, but knowing truly it would plunge her own realm into a long-winded route of despair, Valentyna dodges the marital question with parries of statesmanship and more than a little fear. But knowing full well that the arrangement would, at the very least, increase both nation’s strength against the unpredictable Cailech and his mountain realm to the north.

Cailech of the Razor Mountains has, over the course of his life, united the warring faction and tribes of the mountain people into a cohesive whole. His eyes also gaze to the south, where the lands are softer, the climate sweeter and the prosperity certainly more worthy of his people. As his raiding parties and slight trespasses into the southern realms of both Briavel and Morgravia get more than a little bolder, both southern nations must fortify their northern borders while at the same time guarding from each other.

And through all this, runs General Wyl Thirsk, destined General to the Legions of Morgravia, and his few allies. Early in his life Wyl’s witness and show of compassion to a young claimed witch named Myrren, a title to be burned by in Morgravia’s not yet distant years of magic shunning, marks him with a “gift” known only as the Quickening. A mysterious transference from person to person, body to body – upon his assassination by hired mercenary Romen Koreldy, he finds himself trapped in another man’s body yet still bound by the honor of his state. But first he needs to figure out who Romen Koreldy is – and what he was – before he can even hope to begin unraveling the threads of his own problems.

Before even anything gets worked out, another tactful Celimus move finds Romen – and by default Wyl – once again murdered. And once again he is trussed into the body of his murderer, this time a woman. A very intriguing, dangerous and highly paid woman who is known as a very ruthless assassin and leaves Wyl once again not knowing where it is safe to roam with a past unknown to him and enemies who could be anyone. The only clue is to seek out Myrren’s birth father, a Manwitch[1], who might be able to help Wyl unravel the secret of what, precisely, the Quickening is.

Once I got halfway or so through Myrren’s Gift it became one of those “what next” sort of deals. Blocks of hours were whiled away with it, while just about everything else hovered just out of sight. And within moments of finishing Myrren’s Gift I barreled headlong into the second book of the trilogy, Blood and Memory, literally within moments. Like I said, Fiona manages to walk a fine line between verbose and fluid, creating a wonderfully descriptive setting without sacrificing much toward the swift movement of the story. Her characters are breathtaking in their make-up, as real as, and sometimes more so, anyone you might meet in your lifetime. Well done, already a few chapters into book two as I write this.

"Myrren’s Gift" by Fiona McIntosh
Cover Design by Ervin Serrano
Cover Illustration by Les Petersen
Copyright © 2003 by Fiona McIntosh
ISBN: 0-06-074756-0
[1] I’m assuming not the on a burger bun kind.

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