Author: Patricia Briggs
Publication: Ace; Original edition (September 28, 2010)
Description: After an upbringing of proper behavior and oppressive expectations, Aralorn fled her noble birthright for a life of adventure as a mercenary spy. Her latest mission involves spying on the increasingly powerful sorcerer Geoffrey ae'Magi. But in a war against an enemy armed with the powers of illusion, how do you know who the true enemy is--or where he will strike next?
My Thoughts: This was a great fantasy book that happens to be the first published novel by Patricia Briggs. She edited it some to reflect her greater writing skill.
Aralorn is an interesting character. She was a highborn lady who decided to leave home and join a mercenary army. She is also half shapeshifter and able to assume a number of forms including a mouse and a goose. She is also able to shapeshift her appearance. These skills make her a very useful spy.
Wolf is an interesting character too. He is a human mage who was the apprentice of the powerful sorcerer Geoffrey ae'Magi but escaped from him. He is able to take the form of a wolf and, in that form, he was rescued from a pit trap by Aralorn. They became friends and companions.
When Aralorn is sent to spy on Geoffrey ae'Magi she becomes aware that he is a massive threat to all. He is bespelling people to like him and follow him and gaining his power by killing magical children to steal their power. His spells are so widespread that Aralorn doesn't really know who she can trust. Most people seem to be already under his power.
King Myr is not. Nor can he be influenced by the ae'Magi because he is immune to magic. When the ae'Magi takes over his kingdom, he flees to the Northlands to mount a rebellion along with Wolf and Aralorn. The odds are terribly against them but they do find some unexpected allies in the Old Man of the Mountains and the last living dragon.
This story had all the elements of many epic fantasy stories but they were leavened by the touches of humor that Briggs brings to the tale. Aralorn is not easily intimidated by anyone and has a way with quips that helps Wolf come to terms with his past. The romance gradually grows between Wolf and Aralorn and I look forward to the sequel - Wolfsbane - to find out what is next for the intrepid duo.
I recommend this book to those who love epic fantasy and to those who have read Patricia Briggs' other books. Warning: this one is very different in genre that her current urban fantasy stories but it is equally entertaining.
Wolf had taken no notice of her odd actions but set the thin, harmless book on her side of the table and returned to what he termed "the unreadable scribbles of a mediocre and half-mad warlock who passed away into much-deserved obscurity several centuries before: safe from the curses of an untrained magician, however powerful."