“Darkstorm (The Rhenwars Saga #1)” by M.L. Spencer

A fast-paced and vividly rendered story of dark magic, “Darkstorm” is full of twists and turns. Merris Bryar is an acolyte mage in Aerysius who stumbles into a conspiracy between high-ranking officials of her own country and Caladorn, their sworn enemies. Before she knows what is happening, she has to flee to Caladorn and take refuge in the protection of a washed-up drunkard who used to be a powerful mage. But the conspiracy goes deeper than anyone suspects…

Hovering somewhere on the border between epic fantasy and sword and sorcery, “Darkstorm” partakes amply of the tropes of both. There are political plots, magical conspiracies, necromancy, bold warriors and evil mages, not to mention beautiful maidens (who can take care of themselves, thank you very much). While the characters are somewhat thinly drawn, so that they sometimes seem to act more in service of the plot than of their inner natures, the plot itself manages to fit in a number of shocking reversals, not to mention plenty of magic, so that for fans of the fantasy genre in its pure form, “Darkstorm” will be a cracking read.

Although the book uses multiple points of view, the main character is Merris. I can’t say that I liked her that much, for reasons that I don’t want to give away but will most likely become obvious to the reader as the book progresses, but I did have to wonder if the whole book is an extended metaphor about grad school. Or is the fact that I think so a sign of my own obsessive sickness? In any case, let’s assume that it IS about grad school. In which case I can’t help but sympathize with Merris. Already in her mid-twenties, she’s an acolyte who knows she has the talent and hungers for power, but is still treated essentially as chattel or a child by her older mentors, and is forced to risk her safety for the sake of others, and humiliate herself for the sake of her safety. No wonder she…no, never mind, I’m not giving it away! You’ll have to read the book to find out what her desperation drives her to.

You can get your own copy here.

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