“It came to Hyam like a scent carried on a war-torn wind. But there was no hint of breeze within the city walls. Nor did he actually smell anything. But he knew it nonetheless, the electric potency of a spell not yet cast. He had almost forgotten how tantalising the flavour really was.”
To read Thomas Locke’s Legends of the Realm series is to immerse yourself in another world – one that owes its magic to Mr Locke’s writing as much as it does the mage-force that operates within it. His writing is not just descriptive; it is atmospheric. For this, and many other reasons, Merchant of Alyss was a very engaging read.
When I say it was an engaging read, I do not simply mean it captured and held my attention. I mean that it is the kind of story that meets the reader half-way; the kind of story that does not explain everything to you, but draws you in to discover for yourself as you become immersed in the story. I deliberately slowed down my reading rate in order to give myself the time to absorb everything in the writing, and even then I think there will still be things to take in on a second or third reading.
Hyam is a hero to the citizens of Falmouth following his defeat of the crimson mage (detailed in the first book in this series, The Emissary), but while his physical wounds have healed, the loss of his mage-powers has left an ache that not many people can understand. When a dusty wagon full of scrolls arrives in Falmouth he is drawn by a sense of unleashed power emanating from an ancient scroll inscribed “Property of the merchant of Alyss.” As he studies the scrolls he discovers spells of warcraft – though no scroll holds a complete spell, and only two scrolls in the entire collection form a complete spell.
The morning after Hyam finishes sorting the scrolls he begins to be visited in his dreams by a dragon carrying a scroll marked in the same script as the ones in the wagon. Everything points Hyam towards Ellismere, the vale of woe; the place where the wasteland begins. But it is a long and arduous journey; one that will force him to face a heritage he has tried to deny, and may exact a high personal price.
Locke’s characters are well-drawn, and I particularly love the way in which he conveys the depth of Hyam and Joelle’s love for one another (but don’t worry, it’s not a ‘kissing book’!) Shona was the other stand-out character for me – a strong young woman who experiences unrequited love but rises in the face of this to accept her destiny.
Although there is no specific mention of religion in this book, there are still some fine Christian principles woven into the story, most notably the idea that there is a greater good that must be considered outside of our own needs and desires, and that we can and must persevere in the face of hardship in doing what is right.
And just a warning – Hyam’s journey is not finished yet. I have to say I am partly relieved by this, because there were some moments at the climax of the novel’s action where I feared that things had resolved a little too easily. I wouldn’t say this novel left me hanging, but there are some matters that I am keen to see resolved. Needless to say, I am looking forward to the next part of the journey!
If you are looking for a well-written portal to another world, this is your opening.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell in return for my honest review.