Lorna Freeman,
The King's Own
(Roc, 2006)

This sequel to Covenants has a young mage, Rabbit, moving to the king's court and promptly running into a major conflict that involves smuggling, demonic possession, anti-magical hatred, a plot to kill or overthrow the king, and a plethora of strange phenomena of magic. Will Rabbit step up to the plate and be able to help save the day, or will this be the demise of Rabbit, bringing this epic Borderlands fantasy series to a crashing halt?

On a five-star rating system, I give this epic fantasy a strong four stars. Why? Consider these factors:

1. There is strong character development, especially for Rabbit, Laurel Faena, Wyln and King Jusson. I really like the Rabbit character, as he had astounding abilities, but no arrogance. He is also still discovering and developing his skills and is struggling to gain control over his magical talent.

2. The magic described in The King's Own follows the guidelines described by Orson Scott Card in "How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy," as it has limits, requires ability and learning, and requires a cost for the user. If magic doesn't follow these rules, the author is describing more divine than magical powers. The magic described is also different from the magic in many novels, and this gives the book much of its originality.

3. This book has an intricate plot, ripe with subterfuge, treachery and surprises. It is as much a mystery novel as a fantasy.

4. The writing flows rapidly, evenly and well.

So, what two flaws prevent me from saying that the book earns all five stars?

1. In most of the books I read, I end up with pretty clear mental images of what the characters and settings look like. There was not, for me, enough grist for the imagination in this story. I ended up with a good idea of what some of the buildings, most of the magical items, many of the rooms and much of the clothing looked like, but not the natural setting, nor the characters themselves, except for Rosea. It would not have taken a lot more writing to give me the details I sought. The 421 pages (in my copy) might have ended up at 450, which is not over-long for a fantasy novel.

2. I struggled with this book, in the beginning, because it bore many resemblances to other fantasy novels I've read, ranging from the apprentice mage being given a nasty-tasting tea to recovery from magical side-effects (see Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy), to a mysterious character with hidden powers, very similar names (Chadde in The King's Own, Chade in the Farseer books), to the essential premise of an apprentice mage playing a major role in a royal court while learning how to use his abilities (see Farseer, Modesitt's Legacies trilogy, Paolini's Eragon series).

As The King's Own progresses, though, its originality begins to shine through these somewhat formulaic resemblances, but the initial similarities require some patience to wade through.

The King's Own ended up being a very enjoyable reading experience, and I look forward to reading more of Lorna Freeman's work.

by Chris McCallister
20 May 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.