Only seven minutes younger than Rolencia’s heir, Byren has never hungered for the throne. He laughs when a seer predicts that he will kill his twin. But the royal heir resents Byren’s growing popularity. Across the land the untamed magic of the gods wells up out of the earth’s heart. It sends exotic creatures to stalk the wintry nights and it twists men’s minds, granting them terrible visions. Those so touched are sent to the Abbey to control their gift, or die. At King Rolen’s court enemies plot to take his throne, even as secrets within his own household threaten to tear his family apart.
The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin follows the story of King Rolen’s three youngest children, Byren, Fyn and Piro. Rolenica has been at peace for thirty years, but there is a betrayer in their midst, and a plot is brewing to steal the throne.
The use of magic in this book, “Affinity” (With the Gods) isn’t left to the wizards, rather it can manifest in anyone and training takes place at Rolenica’s Abbey, for the boys, serving the Summer Goddess Halcyon, and the Rectory, for the girls, serving the winter God Sylion. Untrained magic, King Rolen has decreed, can be used for evil ends,and is outlawed. ‘Renegade Power Workers’, as they are called in Rolenica, face execution if captured. A veritable beastiary of mythical creatures, including manticores, foenixes, leogryfs, unistags and more roam the land, attracted to Affinty seeps, where the magic seeps out from the earth’s core.
Byren is the younger of the twins by a few minutes, the ‘spare heir’, while Lence is next in line to the throne. The twins are growing distant, as jealousy and the love of a woman drive them further and further apart. Byren tries to bridge the gap, but he has no idea that someone is turning his twin against him.
Fyn, the younger son, is Affinity touched, and has been gifted to the Abbey. Fyn is caught in a power struggle between the Monks and Abbey politics, his life is in constant danger, and his fears and insecurities abut his abilities continue to grow.
Meanwhile Piro, the youngest and only daughter, whose Affinity has only recently manifested, is desperate to keep her secret and not be sent away, and torn between her desire for freedom and her duty to her family.
All three are far too brave, honest and headstrong for their own good. A hasty lie,told to protect a friend, haunts Byren throughout all three parts of the tale. Fyn would sacrifice the very thing he wants in order not to tell a lie. And Piro, is so fiercely loyal to her family and friends, and even her pet Foenix, she doesn’t think twice about placing herself in danger to help them. A little too good, perhaps, but they are such engaging, utterly human and fallible characters, you can easily forgive them for it.
Once in a while a series of books come along that remind me why I fell in love with the fantasy genre, and this is certainly one of them. High fantasy, political intrigue, religion and magic make for a fast-paced, thrilling adventure that kept me captivated the entire time, finishing all three books in rapid succession.
But plots within the church, political scheming, treachery, treason, war and bloodshed only skim the surface of these books. The coming-of-age story of the three central characters, thrown into dire circumstances, their family torn asunder by plotting and betrayal, and their desperate struggle to survive makes a riveting, heart-wrenching, breathless tale, in a superb backdrop of a wintry world drenched in magic.
Rowena Cory Daniells at http://king-rolens-kin.com/