Kosar the thief senses that Rafe Baburn is no ordinary boy. After witnessing a madman plunder Rafe's village and murder his parents, Kosar knows the boy needs his help. And now, for a reason he cannot fathom, others are seeking the boy's destruction. Uncertain where to begin, Kosar turns to A'Meer, an ex-lover and Shantasi warrior whose people, unbeknownst to him, have been chosen to safeguard magic's return. A'Meer knows instantly that it is Rafe who bears this miracle of magic. Now Kosar and a band of unexpected allies embark on a battle to protect one special boy. For dark forces are closing in-including the Mages, who have been plotting their own triumphant return. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Well-drawn characters and a literate way with the grisly distinguish this first of a new fantasy series from Stoker-winner Lebbon (Desolation). Long after the Cataclysmic War that devastated the world and banished magic, the Mages are trying to ensure that the magic, if it returns, is under their control. When farm boy Rafe Baburn shows signs of magical gifts, the Mages send their relentless minions, the Red Monks, in pursuit. Rafe must flee for his life, but fortunately he finds allies in a thief, a woman warrior and a scholarly witch. Many of the well-handled action scenes are from the bad guys' point-of-view, an unusual perspective that helps round out the author's fantasy world. The climactic battle, a variation on the classic raising of the dead, offers an ambiguous outcome that presumably will be resolved in the sequel. (Jan. 31) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 30, 2006
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Excerpt from Dusk by Tim Lebbon
When Kosar saw the horseman, the world began to end again.
The horse walked toward the village, the rider shifting in fluid time to his mount's steps. The man's body was wrapped in a deep red cloak, pulled up so that it formed a hood over his head, shadowing his face. His hands rested on his thighs. The horse made its own way along the road. Loose reins hung to either side of its head, its mane was clotted with dirt, and its unshod hooves clacked and clicked puffs of dust from the dry trail. Only one man on a horse, and he did not appear to be armed.
How, then, could Kosar know that death followed him in?
With a grimace he stopped work and squatted. A warm breeze kissed the raw flesh of his fingertips--the marks of a thief--and took away the pain for a few precious moments. Blood had dripped and dried into a dust-caked mess across his hands and between his fingers, and they crackled when he flexed them. The unhealing wounds were a permanent reminder of the mistakes of his past.
Kosar decided that the irrigation trenches could wait a few minutes more. It had taken two years for the village to decide to commission them; another moment would make no difference to the crops withering and dying in the fields. Besides, they needed much more than water, though most would refuse to believe that was so. And now there was something more interesting to grab his attention, something that might bring excitement to this measly little collection of huts, hovels and run-down dwellings that dared call itself a village.
He stared along the road at the figure in the distance. Yes, only one man, but a threatening pall hung about him, like shadowy echoes of evil deeds. Kosar looked the other way, past the old stone bridge and into the village itself. There were children playing by the stream, diving and resurfacing in triumph if they caught a fish between their teeth. Elsewhere, drinkers sat silently stoned outside the tavern, mugs of rotwine festering half-finished in the sun, the other half coursing through veins and inducing a few cherished hours of catatonia. It was a false escape that he, Kosar the thief, would never be permitted again. At least not where any form of law still applied.
The market was small today, but a few traders plied their wares and squeezed tellan coins and barter from the village folk. Skinned furbats hung from hooks along one stall, their livers intact and ripe with rhellim, the drug of sexual abandonment. He had already seen three people skulking away, a furbat beneath their shirt and their eyes downcast. Their children may not eat tonight, but at least the parents would be assured of a good screw. Another trader sold charms supposedly from Kang Kang, banking on the fear and awe in which that place was held to make the buyers see past the trinkets' obvious falseness. There were food sellers too, offering fruits from the Cantrass Plains. But the journey from that place was long, the route difficult and most of the fruits had lost their lively hue.
Kosar turned once again to the stranger. He was much closer now, and the sound of his progress had become audible in the heavy air. The figure raised his head almost imperceptibly. The cloak shifted to allow a sliver of the falling sun inside, and Kosar squinted as he tried to make out what it revealed. His eyesight was not as good as it had once been, scorched by decades in the sun and weakened by lack of nourishment, but it had never misled him.
The stranger's face was as red as his cloak.