The Fifth Ring

by Mitchell Graham

Eos, January, 2003.
Paperback, 576 pages.
ISBN: 0060506512

The Fifth Ring by Mitchell Graham King Karas Duran has always longed for a way to conquer the rest of the known world. He is given that power when an excavation on the palace grounds unearths a strange room with glowing crystals and rings which enable the wearer to telepathically use the power of the crystals. Karas eventually masters one of the rings, cavalierly blowing up quite a few servants and statuary along the way. His studies in the crystal room tell him that there were originally five rings; one of them is missing. In the town of Devondale, young Mathew Levin is a fencer of great skill. Through a series of unusual events, Mathew acquires possession of a rose gold ring, which has amazing and destructive powers. Karas makes a deal with the ruthless and terrifying Orlocks to wage war and to find the last ring. Mathew, several friends and Father Thomas Siward are forced to leave Devondale, as they become swept up in Karas' quest for a power which could destroy the world.

Although it is set in a fantasy world, there are strong science fiction elements in The Fifth Ring, the first in a projected trilogy. The world is medieval in technology, yet it sits on top of the ruin of an incredibly advanced civilization that no longer exists, but whose secrets are there for the taking by those who dare. This makes for a very interesting twist on the standard magical systems used in most fantasy books. A fencing expert himself, the author uses that expertise to great effect in his exciting and well-written action scenes. The characters are well-drawn: Mathew, the insecure boy who tends to lose his lunch before fencing tournaments, Lara, Mathew's love interest who can fence as well as any man, and particularly Father Thomas Siward, the enigmatic town priest who seems equally at home on the battlefield or in the pulpit. The dialogue is crisp and often funny, and Graham's prose is spare and lean. Mitchell Graham is clearly an author to watch.

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This review was published in the February, 2003 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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