Nocturne (The Fourth Talisman #1)
A few months ago I got “The Midnight Sea,” the first book in this omni-series or mega-series or uber-series or whatever you want to call it, through a giveaway. It was definitely the stand-out of all the books I got through that particularly giveaway, and so I’ve been dipping in and out of the series since then.
“Nocturne” features Nazafareen, the same heroine as “The Midnight Sea,” but a few years and a few adventures later. It’s the first book in the Fourth Talisman mini-series against the backdrop of the whole maxi-series (what DO we call these things? I want to know for myself since I have the same structure for my own fantasy series, but it’s a pretty common thing to do, so there should be a name for it. Anyway), and can be read as such, although it will probably make more sense if you’ve read some of the other books first. Having only read “The Midnight Sea” before getting into “Nocturne,” I knew who many of the main characters were, but was missing in on some of the big events that had happened in between. Still, I was able to follow along pretty well, so if you’re thinking of jumping into the series halfway, this is as a good a place as any.
As in “The Midnight Sea,” the action is fast and furious, but still at a more reasonable pace than many contemporary fantasy books, which seem to be just one sword fight after another,. “Nocturne” moves briskly and fits in plenty of adventure, but there’s also time for world-building and character development. If you enjoy epic fantasy but find The Lord of the Rings a little too esoteric and intellectual and A Song of Ice and Fire a little too sprawling, these books will probably be just about right for you. They’re similar to Terry Brooks’s Shannara books, although a bit faster, in their pacing, if that helps give you an idea.
My favorite thing about this series is the world-building, which is based on ancient Persia and Greece, but with real magic. It’s familiar enough to Western readers to be comprehensible, but still refreshingly different from your standard Western European epic fantasy setting, with most of the sympathetic characters as some version of Persian. If you’re looking for a new epic fantasy series to start, especially one with a strong, sympathetic female lead and a significant non-Western presence, then this series is definitely worth checking out.