Tor, Apr 2003, 27.95, 591 pp.
Former Kazrak cavalry Captain Idres Warkannan and “high tech sorcerer” Yarl Soutan seek Jezro Khan, the exiled brother of the corrupt ruler of Kazrajistan, to lead a revolt to overthrow the worthless dangerous regime of his sibling. At about the same time, the fanatical Muslim sect The Chosen sends assassin Zayn Hassan to stop Jezro's rumored return.
To reach the isolated region where Jezro resides, the two enemy groups cross a grassy wilderness inhabited by the alien Cha'Meech and by human nomads. On his trek Zayn meets Ammadin, the Spirit Rider healer of a nomadic tribe. Not long afterward, he begins to wonder if his chosen profession and his current assignment are justified. Meanwhile the “magician” Soutan learns of the Hassan mission and his allies send out their assassins to kill their competitor. Soon the Cha'Meech encounter Ammadin, the first step towards the quartet of rivals confronting one another, but where this global conflict will lead to when the events unfold is anyone guess.
The key to this science fiction novel is that the four major societies are complex, feel genuine, and their rivalry definitely feels real. To achieve such a deep objective, segments of the plot slow down in order to introduce and develop the cast. Still the contrast between the groups and the varying ethical stands of the key players on each side of the square make for a meandering yet delightful world building tale that SNAREs the reader and never lets go until the final page.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner