Mickey Zucker Reichert,
The Return of Nightfall
(DAW, 2004)

The Return of Nightfall, Mickey Zucker Reichert's long-awaited sequel to The Legend of Nightfall, opens almost immediately after the end of the previous volume. Edward Nargol (known to friends as "Ned"), the new King of Alyndar, has appointed the former assassin Nightfall (known by his birthname of Sudian) as his chancellor. After all, how can an assassin be any worse than the previous chancellor, a treacherous sorcerer who murdered Ned's father and elder brother? Mind you, only three people know that Sudian and Nightfall are the same person -- Ned and Nightfall's beloved Kelryn and Nightfall himself.

Ned, being an overly virtuous and honorable man, decides to return to the city-state of Schiz with a chest full of treasure as an apology to the duke for being found in his daughter's bedroom (an incident from the previous novel). The king and his companions are relaxing at the inn where they stayed previously when they are approached by Brandon Magebane, a hunter of sorcerers. Brandon is here to redeem a promise that Nightfall made (again, in the previous novel) in return for the Magebane's help. Though Nightfall does his best to weasel out of it, Ned insists that he honor his word.

Unfortunately, while Nightfall is off doing that, someone abducts Ned and slaughters his guard, someone who so terrifies the innkeeper, his employees and patrons that none of them saw anything. And the best news of all is that everyone thinks it was Nightfall.

Once more on the run, Nightfall must use all his skills to locate the king and return him to Alyndar before Alyndar's soldiers catch up with him and before the Alyndarian council, presuming Ned dead, names a new king.

Before I received this book, I had never read any of Reichert's work, though The Legend of Nightfall sat on my shelf for years. Yet the opening incident with Brandon Magebane nagged at me; I knew I'd read that story somewhere before. I finally realized that it is presented as a short story ("Nightfall's Promise") in DAW 30th Anniversary Fantasy.

Nightfall is a fascinating character, someone who thinks of himself as a cold-blooded killer, but who is essentially a decent, honorable person. It is interesting to watch Sudian's frustration at having to work within the rules that society has imposed on him -- and that he has imposed on himself, by giving up the persona of Nightfall -- when in the past, all he had to do was glare at someone and they would do whatever he wanted. His anguish at having to resume the guise of the heartless assassin in order to find Ned, especially when he fears that the cost will be everything he loves, makes him very much human and definitely not the demon that society would make him out to be.

The Return of Nightfall is a highly entertaining book. Occasionally, an author who returns to a world after a long span away won't get characterizations and situations to quite match what they've previously written, but Reichert got it spot on; reading Legend and Return was like one seamless narrative.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 11 June 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.