Dan Chernenko,
The Bastard King
(Roc, 2003)

Dan Chernenko launches the Scepter of Mercy series of fantasy books with The Bastard King. In a simple, straightforward narrative style, Chernenko sets his tale in the kingdom of Avornis and chronicles the rise of two extraordinary men: Lanius, the bastard son of King Mergus, and Grus, a royal navy captain of humble origins.

Lanius was the son of Certhia, King Mergus's concubine. A beautiful woman, she held the heart of the king. In Avornis, commoners were allowed three wives, nobles four and kings six. Since Mergus already has his six wives, Certhia must remain his leman. However, with the news she is to bear his child, Mergus grows determined to make her his seventh wife so his son will follow him onto the thrown. Mergus knows his younger brother Prince Scolopax is hungry to take over the throne, and will not welcome the news Mergus is to have a son.

Since Lanius is the illegitimate son of a seventh wife, in the eyes of the people and church he cannot inherit the throne. But a council of regents rally behind the him as a figurehead while they control the real power. The child finds his life ruled by a series of regents -- at one point, his mother, Certhia holds the power, and later Grus, a more powerful influence, who serves as jointly as king with Lanius. Grus has risen far from a humble naval captain to a great general and intends to make the most of his position. Grus, who is constantly tormented by dreams of things to come, must continually battle the Thervings and the Menteshe, warlike tribes under the control of a banished Auld God, now called the Evil Banished Ones.

It is a rousing saga that holds much promise, enough so I am looking forward to book two in the series.

- Rambles
written by DeborahAnne MacGillivray
published 7 February 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.