My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This fourth installment of Hambly’s Darwath series takes place five years after the defeat of the Dark Lord. The inhabitants of Darwath have rallied around the ancient Keep of Dare, battling increasing cold and longer winters in their attempt to survive. Now, a fungus-like growth, named slunch, is spreading across the increasingly frozen land, destroying food crops and everything else in its path. Anything that tries to eat the slunch, animal or human, is transformed into a destructive monster. The archmage Ingold Inglorion is sure the answer lies to the south, and is determined to travel there with his protector/lover, Gil Patterson. But Gil has been cursed and now she may well be the one to kill Ingold. And the politics at the Keep are not in the best shape. Queen Meraulde, beloved of Ingold’s assistant Rudy and pregnant with Rudy’s child, faces growing unrest as none of the mages are able to find the solution to the encroaching slunch. Ingold must find the powers centered under the Mother of Winter mountain and defeat them before Gil’s curse is fulfilled, and Rudy must learn the lost secrets of the Keep in order for them all to survive.
I am a fan of pretty much everything Hambly has written, and the Darwath series is a particular favorite. Somehow, in my reading of the rest of the series, I missed this one, and it was a pleasure to find it. It is a good addition the series, and reintroduces us to all the favorite characters from the earlier trilogy: Ingold and Gil, Rudy and Meraude, prince regent Tir, and, of course, the Ice Falcon. The story moves along well, despite some introspective interludes from most of the main characters (Ice Falcon, as always, is more prone to fighting than worrying about his own state of mind). A few new characters are introduced, although they are not as fully developed as might be. There is plenty of action, a fair amount of political intrigue and maneuvering, and a few twists that make it more than a stock fantasy quest tale.
Fans of epic fantasy should enjoy this, although if you are new to Darwath, you should start at the first trilogy in order to meet the characters and fill in the backstory here.
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