Tor, Jul 2003, 24.95, 336 pp.
In the kingdom of Escator, medical apprentice Garth Baxtor learns how to apply his gift of the healing touch and use of herbs under the tutelage of his father physician Joseph. Every year Joseph treks to the Veins to provide health care to the condemned prisoners working the mines instead of paying taxes. Garth accompanies his father on the trip.
Garth notices one of the incarcerated has the tattoo of the mythical Manteceros on his arm; a tattoo of this beast is restricted only to two people, the king and his heir. It does not take mush thinking to conclude that this prisoner has to be Prince Maximillian, who vanished almost a decade ago. Garth says nothing, but upon returning home, he quietly investigates the tattoo, the Manteceros, and a weird rhyme the prisoner recited. Joined by Ravenna of the marsh, and the regally faithful Abbott Vorstus, Garth knows the rightful monarch toils in the mine while an imposter rules Escador.
Though the story line flows in an obvious direction, fantasy readers will enjoy this delightful tale. The story line is loaded with action so the audience rarely has a moment to breathe. The champion trio seems genuine even as they step over the edge risking everything in a heroic effort to right a wrong. Sara Douglass provides a strong tale that displays why the Australian audience thinks she is one of the top fantasists writing in the past decade.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner