Dan Chernenko,
The Scepter of Mercy #2:
The Chernagor Pirates

(Roc, 2004)

Most kingdoms limp by with only one king, but Avornis is graced with two. One is young King Lanius, whose ancestors have been the rulers of Avornis for 12 generations. The other is King Grus, a former river-boat captain, Lanius's father-in-law -- and usurper. While the two kings share the throne, it is Grus who truly rules the kingdom. But both kings dream of regaining the fabled Scepter of Mercy, a weapon to be used against the dreaded Banished One, a fallen god who rules the land to their south -- where the Scepter of Mercy is held by the Menteshe and where ordinary folk are turned into mindless thralls.

In this second volume of The Scepter of Mercy, the focus shifts from the south, however, to the land of the Chernagors to the north. One of the Chernagor princes has been deposed by his son and has requested the help of Avornis to regain his throne. Fearing that the Banished One might be behind things, Grus feels that he has no choice but to give the requested aid and, leaving Lanius in charge at home, marches his army north.

Chernenko writes with a restrained dry humor reminiscent of David Eddings. His characterization is good and often quite entertaining, as when young Lanius discovers that tumbling maid servants is fun -- until his wife starts throwing crockery, that is. But that doesn't stop him from going back for more. The story alternates viewpoints between Grus and Lanius, generally from chapter to chapter, but occasionally changing within a chapter. This effectively lets us see both sides of many of the interchanges between the kings and how they differently interpret things without getting bored with one character or the other.

There is a tiny bit of middle-bookness about The Chernagor Pirates and though it could probably stand alone, I wouldn't start the series here (in fact, I didn't). I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series, though I am hoping that Chernenko is going to wrap up his story and is not planning to write an unending saga, like certain other fantasy authors.

by Laurie Thayer
17 December 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.