Book 1 of Chronicles of the Raven
ISBN - 978-0-575-07534-4
FIRST PUBLISHED - 2000
PAGES - 532
GENRE - Fantasy
BINDING - Paperback
AUTHOR - James Barclay
SYNOPSIS - The Raven have fought together for years, six men and an elf carving out a living as swords for hire in the war that has torn Balaia apart, loyal only to themselves and their code. But when they agree to escort a Xesteskian mage on a secret mission they are pulled into a world of politics and ancients secrets. For the first time The Raven cannot trust even their own strength and prowess, for the first time their code is in doubt. How is it that they are fighting for one of the most evil colleges of magic known? Searching for the secret location of Dawnthief; a spell that could end the world? Aiming not to destroy it but to cast it . . . DAWNTHIEF is a fast paced epic about a band of all-too-human heroes.
FL Speak - Ever since I read "The Ascendants of Estoria", I wanted to read James Barclay again. And that was almost 4 years ago. With names of books like Dawnthief, Noonshade, Nightchild and their classy covers, I admit I wanted them very bad. Alas, previous commitments stood on the way.
But when I found the entire trilogy at 70 percent off on a recent Landmark store, I dropped everything. Literally. Dropped every damn book I was holding and got myself this wonderful trilogy.
The Raven. 6 men and an elf. Mercenaries/soldiers/guards/scouts for hire. The Raven are the only other military unit I absolutely fell in love with after the Bridgeburners. And therein lies the catch. I keep forgetting that I should fall in love with characters. 150 pages into the book, 3 of the Raven are dead. Surprisingly fast, since they keep saying that there had been only 2 deaths in the last 10 years. If their deaths brought grief, then the bond of the survivors gave me hope. It brought me even closer to them, as stupid it may sound.
The book starts devastatingly well. A siege at Taranspike Castle, which the Raven are defending. The first casualty amongst the Raven take place here when Ras, one of them, is dead under the hands of an enemy mage, Denser, from the College of Xetesk. And what follows next is sheer impossibility. They meet a Dragon from another dimesion.
Despite the death of one their own by the hands of Denser, the Raven reluctantly work for him for a huge deal of money. Little did they knew that the fate of the world rested on the shoulders of Denser. For the Wytch Lords have escaped their mana prison and their magic gave enough power to the magic-weilding Shamen to lead the thousands of Wesmen over Balaia. And if the Wesmen are not stopped, Balaia will burn. But not even the combined power of the four Colleges of Magic was enough to stop the threat of the Wytch Lords. And so the College of Xetesk sends Denser, to cast a spell that legendary mage Septern created, to nullify the threat of the Wytch Lords for once and for all. But the spell Dawnthief is no ordinary spell and it could sunder Balaia apart if it is not cast properly.
James Barclay doesn't shy away from killing characters off. Even if they happen to be the main ones. In a sword and sorcery novels, you can expect anyone to be killed, even in a drunken brawl at the inn. And Barclay does complete justice even though I couldn't help wincing every time the Raven got diminished by one. What makes the book even more enjoyable is that it isn't just go do-it-yourself and save-the-world book. But it is still that. Dawnthief could've been easily cast if not for the enmities between the four colleges of magic. And by the time they realize the threat of the Wytch Lords, the Wesmen are hanging around in their backyard chanting war cries.
The four colleges of Magic eventually do realize that Dawnthief might be the only answer to their predicament, even if it rips apart the world. And the task falls upon the Raven. The Raven, who're known throughout the world for their code of conduct. The Raven are feared and respected and they're known to finish the job once they accept it. But if Denser thought that he could use the Raven according to his wish, he was dead wrong. The Raven might get the job done, but they do it their way. Their is an unflinching faith and loyalty among the Raven brethren. You find yourself cheering for Hirad and the Unknown and Ilkar as they prepare themselves for battle. You wish you were a part of them.
Dawnthief is full of action and sorcery. It has multiple plots and it feels frighteningly real. At no point, you feel as if you're reading something that's bigger than life. The characters are flawed, they're loveable, they make mistakes and they try with all their hearts to save the damn world.
Dawnthief is an experience. A wonderful, fast-paced adventure. It is also a bloody complex spell.
My Rating - 4/5 stars
PRICE - INR 350/-