This story weaves together strands of the tales of Merlin Ambrosius and Nimue. It begins with Nimue pregnant by Merlin and betraying him to the summoner Earno. Both Merlin and Nimue are banished. Nimue is taken from Earth (our world) to a parallel world called the Wardlands. The child is taken away from her at birth and fostered by the Theorn dwarf clan.
The child is known as Morlock syr Theorn, taking his name from his dwarf father. Morlock is a thain, a member of a cohort called the Graith of Guardians, who are responsible for protecting the realm. His order is subordinate to the vocates. Problems are emerging in the lands. Morlock is tasked with leading the summoner Earno (his father’s betrayer) into the north to ascertain what is happening.
Several plot twists later, it turns out that a guile of dragons has invaded the northern fiefs of the Wardlands. Battles and skirmishes take place, and the dragons are dispersed and defeated, at least temporarily.
The author, James Enge, draws on a variety of mythological creatures and legends for the basis of his story. There are fragments from the Arthurian and Volsung sagas, along with numerous magical creatures in his fictional world. Tensions are high between the different sovereignties and cultural groups. Morlock is something of an agent provocateur since his father Merlin is in exile. He struggles to find his place among the various groups, and is hampered by the dichotomy created by his Ambrosian heritage and his dwarfish upbringing.
Various kinds of magic take place through the story, and different abilities and metaphysical skills are discussed. The actions in the story are driven by the dual “gods” Chaos and Fate. “A Guile of Dragons” (A Tournament of Shadows Book One) is followed by “Wrath-Bearing Tree” (Book Two), and “The Wide World's End” (Book Three).
This trilogy and the three prequel books get high ratings for originality and character development, but some readers struggle with the sometimes dense and ponderous language. It does take some effort to penetrate the book and adapt to the flavor of the writing. There’s a lot of action and development packed into a book that’s under 300 pages.
Recommended for readers who enjoy a blend of magical realism, epic fantasy, and updated mythology.
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Author: James Enge
Pyr/Prometheus Books, 2012
279 pg, $17.95 pb.