After the King of Ayr died without naming an heir, a century of enmity destroyed the one kingdom, as the mighty families of the Renn and the Wills fought to determine the crown in a bitter storm of treachery and blood. But now the decades of hatred have woken the unquiet river spirits from their timeless sleep, andrevived a feud more deadly than any conflict of man. As alliances shift and loyalties are tested in the harsh civil war between the two great families, each determined to destroy the other, Toren Renne still fights for peace, hoping to stop the age-old war. But betrayals and double crosses rack the Renn and the Wills, even as a larger threat rises. For the dark knight Hafydd has made a sinister alliance that leads him to secrets hidden for eons, including one that could destroy them all. Only a brave few have managed to stand against Hafydd, and they are scattered throughout the land after a painful defeat: lost, separated, and weakened.
Like the River Wynnd at its center, the conclusion to Russell's Swans' War fantasy trilogy (after The Isle of Battle and The One Kingdom) rolls inexorably along, with many a tributary feeding into the main story. Ancient enchantments combine with contemporary hatreds to fuel a grand war for the kingship of the land, behind which lies a darker plot. The undying children of Wyrr work through human avatars, struggling to find the hidden resting place of their father and to remove or preserve the spell that keeps Death from the mortal realms. Their struggles involve all the folk who live in the land between the mountains, whether warlike or not. Hafydd, the black knight who bargains to release Death, must be defeated by both his enemies (Lady Elise Wills, Alaan the wanderer) and his allies. The story takes on depth from its depiction of myths come to life and the complexities of political struggles where neither side holds a monopoly on virtue or villainy. Unfortunately, the proliferation of warring parents, siblings and cousins leads to confusion as to which "Lord Wills" or "Lord Renn" has turned traitor or true once more. Russell provides a good feel for the tragic in prose that can ring as bright as rushing river water. Agent, Howard Morhaim. (On sale Oct. 12) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 30, 2005
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Excerpt from The Shadow Roads by Sean Russell
The disk of light stretched and wavered, flowing left then right.
The moon, he thought. That is the moon . . . But who am I
Dust mote stars spun slowly in the black. Light began to grow, and he slipped down into the cool, dark depths. He could feel the others here, their numbers beyond counting. Slowly they made their way toward the breathing sea, some so weak they were barely there, others . . . Others were as strong and clear as the risen sun.
But what are their names Have none of them names
Once he had been a traveler. Of that he was almost certain. A traveler whose journeys had become legend.
Once he had gone into a great swamp and battled Death himself.
The bright light faded, and he rose again, floating up toward the waning moon, the faint stars. Something swam by, pale and flowing.
A fish, he thought. But it was not. It was a man, blue-pale, like the belly of a fish, eyes like moon shells. For a moment it paused and gazed at him, sadly.
Who are you he tried to say, but no words would form.
And then he was alone. He felt himself rising again, the wavering moon growing ' so close. His face broke the surface, moonlight clinging to him, running out of his hair, his eyes. He took a breath. And then another.
"But who am I " he whispered.
He looked around, but saw nothing.
"Sainth " The voice came from a shadow on the water, black as a starless sky.
"Sainth . . . " he said. "Is that who I am "
"It is who you were," the voice said.
"And who are you "
"I am the past. Perhaps not even that, but only a shadow of the past."
"I think you are a dream. This is all a dream."
"You are on the River Wyrr, where things are not as they should be."
A shard of memory knifed into his thoughts. "Death . . . Death pursued me!"
"His servants, perhaps. Death does not venture beyond the gates of his dark kingdom . . . yet."
"But why were his servants abroad in forms that could be seen "
This brought a moment of silence, and he felt a breeze touch his face and sigh through the trees along the shore.
"They have not yet appeared so in the land between the mountains, but only in the hidden lands, as they are called: the kingdom of Aillyn, of old. Tusival's great spell fails, and the wall that surrounds Death's kingdom is falling. His servants clamber through the breach. They are preparing the way for their master to follow . . . as was foreseen long ago."