The first book in the Nine Kingdoms series, published in December 2006.
Legend has it that only the two magical swords held in trust by Neroche’s rulers can defeat the evil of the black mage … and never have they been more needed, as the mage’s assault begins to cover the kingdom in darkness.
The king has lost his magic to wield his own sword. Fortunately, Miach, the archmage of Neroche – and the king’s brother – has found a wielder for the other in Morgan, a young woman abandoned among mercenaries as a child, now a feared mercenary herself. But Morgan despises magic and has no patience for the schemes of kings and mages … and too soon, Miach must choose between endangering the woman who has captured his heart and defending the kingdom he is sworn to protect.
For in this land of warrior maids and magical swords, nothing is as it seems. The king is less than he should be, Miach is more than he appears, and Morgan will find her mysterious past brings her troubles she cannot face with a sword alone …
I was dubbing between two new books yesterday, and finally chose this one. And I was glad I did, as I enjoyed the story immensely. It has been a while since I read a nice fantasy story.
Morgan, a young woman raised as a mercenary, is asked to bring a certain dagger to the King of Neroche. She doesn’t really want to, as the dagger is magic, and she can feel it. She hates magic and mages. But Lord Nicholas has asked it of her, and as she sees him as sort of a father, she complies with his wishes. Nicholas has also arranged for some of her previous companions to join her on her journey north.
Right at the start of her journey, Morgan notices she is being followed. Being unafraid of anyone, she quickly renders him unconscious, and takes his possessions for her own. Those are the spoils of battle after all. And he attacked first. But when she turns him over, she is flabbergasted by his beauty, and leaves him with some of his money after all. Until the man wakes up and he opens his mouth. Her companions have found her at that moment, and don’t really understand why she didn’t take all, and most of all, why she agrees to let him travel with them. What Morgan doesn’t know, and one of her companions does, is that he is her King, Adhémar, sent on a quest by his brother the archmage, to find someone who can wield his magical sword now he himself has lost his magic. So Adhémar is travelling incognito through the Nine Kingdoms to find that person. Morgan doesn’t think much of this man, he is a braggart and an oaf, even though he is handsome to look at.
Without telling her companions about her mission, they set out (on foot) for north. Unluckily, they will have to leave the island by boat, and Morgan gets terribly seasick. Her companions fed her some herbs, which make her even more sick, as they are magical herbs. Finally ashore again, they have to travel light, to give Morgan the time to regain her strength. Then they are attacked by creatures, and only when Morgan takes Adhémars sword when he is knocked over, and it lights with magelight, do they win the battle. Luckily there is a tavern not far from there where they can recover.
Meanwhile, the archmage gets impatient, as he hasn’t heard from his brother the King for a month. So he takes the shape of a hawk, and sets out to find him. With no luck, until he sees the sword light up, from miles away. He confronts his brother there, which Morgan witnesses. She cannot believe her eyes, a hawk changing into a man? Her illness overcomes her, and she faints. Miach carries her back to the tavern, and instead of leaving, he stays to watch over Morgan. And looses his heart. So he decides to join the group, so he can keep an eye on her. At that moment, he doesn’t know she is the one he is searching for …
Morgan still doesn’t like Adhémar, but she does like Miach. He is just as handsome as his brother, but not such a braggart. Even if he doesn’t know how to fight well, she likes being near him. He helps her to keep the dreams away. Cause whenever she is sleeping, and lately also while being awake, the sword is singing to her, making her dreams into nightmares. Or are they memories from her childhood? Miach is beginning to suspect who she is, but dares not tell her, as she despises magic so very much. It is not manly in her opinion, to fight with magic instead of a sword. But how is it possible she can see through his magic disguises so easily?
As I said, I really liked the book, and have already started the next one in the series. But I do have some criticism. For a trained assassin/mercenary, Morgan is very gentle, innocent and naive. She trusts too much, or too little. Yes she knows how to use her weapons very well, but she is not a kick ass heroine so far. When in the end of the book, she learns of Miach’s betrayal, she is totally heartbroken. She runs away from her problems, instead of meeting them head on. Still, it is a nice story. I would have appreciated some more background on her friends, and their past adventures, instead of just that they told each other about it around the campfire. What happened when she was in school by Lord Nicholas, etc. Perhaps the next book will give more answers.