Bantam, Jan 2004, 14.95, 480 pp.
Twenty-five years ago, the Southern rulers were more interested in playing petty political games against one other than destroying the Empress Chytrine. Now she has built up her strength and has captured Fortress Draconis, which allows her hordes of the North to capture some of the southern realms. Her army also hunts for the pieces of the Dragon Crown.
The council of kings meets in Narriz to decide how to fight Chytrine's forces, a very hard job since she has turned one of the kings into her enslaved creature. She also walks among them using her magic to pass off as one of the royals. The true heroes of the conference are not the rulers. The champions include Princess Alexia, Prince Erlestoke (who is willing to defy his father if it means killing Chytrine), Alexia's lover Kedyn's Crow who has fought the empress for a quarter of a century, the powerful mage Kerrigan, and Resolute the Vorquellyn elf who is determined that his homeland will be returned with the fulfillment of the prophecy. These brave souls are steadfast in their quest to regain the lost lands and put an end to Chytrine's reign of terror.
This novel is aptly named as the civilized countries of the South do their part to try to oust the evil ruler and her minions in Aurolan. The various sub-plots showcasing the many heroes give the reader a feeling that after three books, there will be a final resolution, one that is realistic and satisfying. THE GRAND CRUSADE is epic in scope and will appeal to readers who like larger than life fantasy and sword and sorcery sagas.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner