Marla Wolfblade of Hythria is determined to restore her family's great name, but conspirators surround her: the Sorcerers' Collective, the Patriots -- even members of her own family. She must make sure her son Damin lives to be old enough to restore the Wolfblade name to its former glory.Elezaar the Dwarf is a small man with big secrets -- but that doesn't matter to Marla Wolfblade. Her brother is the High Prince of Hythria, and, in this fiercely patriarchal society, her fate will be decided on his whim. She needs someone politically astute to guide her through the maze of court politics -- and Elezaar the Dwarf knows more than he lets on.As Elezaar teaches Marla the Rules of Gaining and Wielding Power, Marla starts on the road to becoming a tactician and a wily diplomat -- but will that be enough to keep her son alive? At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
The first book of Fallon's new trilogy showcases the Australian writer's skill at dramatizing the convoluted schemes and backstabbing of king making and power politics. Though not yet 16, Lady Marla Wolfblade, sister to Lernen, the High Prince of Hythria, is a valuable piece in a vast political chess game. Marla's upcoming wedding to King Hablet of Fardohnya will give Lernen access to Hablet's armies, in case of attack from neighboring Medalon; they'll also come in handy to make the Warlords of Hythria toe the line and to withstand attacks from members of the Hythrian "Patriot" faction disgusted by Lernen's hedonistic lifestyle. Fortunately, Marla finds a helpful adviser in the clever dwarf Elezaar, whose former lord was assassinated by Patriots. With his help, Marla grows from a mere pawn to one of the most powerful women in Hythria. Fallon sets the stage for another lively fantasy saga full of intriguing characters, smart dialogue and twisty plotting. (Jan.)
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August 27, 2006
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Excerpt from Wolfblade by Jennifer Fallon
It was always messy, cleaning up after a murder. There was more than just blood to be washed off the tiles. There were all those awkward loose ends to be taken care of--alibis to be established, traitors to be paid off, witnesses to be silenced . . .
And that, Elezaar knew, was the problem. He'd just witnessed a murder.
A slight, humid breeze ruffled the curtain in the alcove where the dwarf was hiding, the tiled floors of the mansion echoing to the sound of booted feet. The faint, fishy smell of the harbour lingered on the wind, rank and uninviting. Or perhaps it wasn't the nearby bay Elezaar could smell. Maybe the decay he smelled was here. Maybe the swords of his master's killers had opened a vein somewhere and the stench came from the moral decay that seeped from the very walls of this house and permeated everything it touched.
Still trembling at the narrowness of his escape, Elezaar moved the curtain a fraction and looked into the room. His master's corpse lay across the blood-soaked silken sheets, his head almost severed by the savage blow which had ended his life. On the floor at his feet lay another body. A slave. She was so new to the household Elezaar hadn't even had time to learn her name. She was only twelve or thirteen; her slender, broken body in the first bloom of womanhood. Or it had been. The master liked them like that--young, nubile and terrified. Elezaar had lost count of the number of girls like her he had seen led into this opulently decorated chamber of horrors. He'd listened to their screams, night after night, playing his lyre with desperate determination; he provided the background music to their torment, shutting out their cries for mercy . . .
This was no subtle assassination, the dwarf decided in a conscious effort to block the memories. This was blatant. Done in broad daylight. An open challenge to the High Prince.
Not that the attack was entirely unexpected. Elezaar's master, Ronan Dell, was one of the High Prince's closest friends--assuming you could call their bizarre, often volatile relationship "friendship". In Elezaar's opinion, his master and the High Prince shared a passion for perversion and for other people's pain rather than any great affection for each other. There were few in Greenharbour who would lament the death of Ronan Dell. No slave in his household would miss him, Elezaar could well attest to that. But even if the slaves of Lord Ronan's house stood by and cheered the men who had stormed the mansion--was it only an hour ago?--their change of allegiance would do them little good. Slaves, even expensive, exotic creatures like Elezaar, were too dangerous to keep alive.
Particularly when they could bear witness to an assassination.
Wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers, Elezaar stepped out of the alcove and made his way cautiously through the chaos of shredded bedding and broken glass to the door. He opened it a fraction and peered out. But for a toppled pedestal and a shattered vase, the hall was deserted, but there were still soldiers in the house. He could hear their distant shouts as they hunted down the last of the household staff.
Elezaar waited in the doorway, torn with indecision. Should he stay here, out of sight? Out of harm's way? Or should he venture out into the halls? Should he see if he could find anybody left alive? Perhaps the assassins had orders to spare the innocent. The dwarf smiled sourly. He might as well imagine the killers had orders to set them all free, as imagine there was any chance the slaves of the house would be spared.
Perhaps, Elezaar thought, I should stay here, after all. Maybe the soldiers won't torch the place when they're done. Maybe he could escape. Maybe Crys had found somewhere to hide. With their master dead, perhaps there was a chance to be truly free? If everyone thought Crysander the court'esa and Elezaar the dwarf had perished in the slaughter . . .
I have to get out of here. I have to find Crys.