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Touched by the Gods by Lawrence Watt-Evans Tor Books, November, 1997.
384 pp. ISBN: 0312860609
The Domdur Empire has ruled the world for several generations and has grown accustomed to the peace and prosperity of its rule. Having conquered all the surrounding countries with the help and the will of the Gods, the Empire is at peace. The Gods speak to the oracles who tell the priests the will of the Gods. If ordinary people have questions about the harvest or if the Royal Family wishes to know who is to be the next Emperor, the Gods answer. There is no uncertainty about any issue.
One evening in a small country village, baby Malledd is born to a simple blacksmith. The baby is born with the claw mark of the God Ba'al on his face which a priest confirms means that Malledd is the chosen champion of the Domdur, to be called upon by the Gods to protect the Empire in the event of war. The mark fades and Malledd grows up. But the claw mark of Ba'al has marked Malledd for a life of teasing from his sisters and jealousy from other villagers about the fact that the priest said he is the Chosen Champion. All he really wants is to live a normal life and so does all he can to keep the secret of his birth. But when a New Magic is discovered and an evil magician arises with an army of walking undead to threaten the sleeping Empire, the Chosen Champion is called for by the Empire. Will Malledd accept his fate as Champion or will he ignore it? Will the Empire fall because one man's unwillingness to accept the destiny laid upon him by the Gods?
Lawrence Watt-Evans has created a fascinating new world in this rousing fantasy epic. The portrayal of Malledd, the hero who doesn't want to be a hero, is an unusual twist on the usual fantasy epic storyline and adds a compelling dimension to the story as we follow Malledd's search for his true self. His path takes him from the blacksmith's forge of a tiny village to the grand city of Seidabar with its temples and palace intrigues to the horror of the battlefields and to the fulfillment of his destiny. The pacing is leisurely through the first part of the book, but picks up steam as Malledd sets off to find his destiny and the action builds until the climactic finale. The characters are well-drawn and interesting and the fantasy and magic elements are intriguing and integral to the plotline. Watt-Evans has left room for the character of Malledd to evolve in future adventures and has dropped tantalizing hints and details about the Gods and the magic of this universe. We can't wait to see what happens next in this fascinating new world.
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