by John Marco
The Saints of the Sword
Bantam, February, 2001.
Trade Paperback, 560 pages.
Count Renato Biagio has finally become Emperor of Nar, after destroying his main rival Bishop Herrick, and his followers. But there will be no rest for Biagio now that his grand design has been accomplished. After giving up the incredibly addictive drug which all Naren lords took to prolong their lives (which had the nasty side effect of making the user a homicidal, amoral maniac), Biagio is beginning to realize what a monster he has been most of his life. Determined to change, to be a better man, he sets out to quell the world war which is brewing. But no one believes that he is not the evil man he used to be -- except for a young boy named Alazrian who has Triin blood and a powerful magic that allows him to read men's souls and to heal. Biagio sends the boy to Falindar to ask Richius Vantran to raise a Triin army and to join Biagio in preventing a war instigated by the evil Elrad Leth (Alazrian's father) and the demented king, Tassius Gayle. Weak and suffering monstrous withdrawal pains, Biagio must use all of his strength and wiles to forge unusual alliances, prevent a horrible war, and save the Empire he loves so much.
In the first two books in this series, The Jackal of Nar, and The Grand Design, it always seemed as if there must be a different side of the evil Count Biagio, and in The Saints of the Sword we finally meet the decent man that became a monster after using the dangerous youth-giving drug concocted by Emperor Arkus' scientists. Biagio is surely the most complex and interesting character to come along in fantasy fiction in a long time, and his struggle to stop a war is absolutely riveting. The true king of Aramoor, Richius Vantran, the noble Captain Kasrin who must betray a friend for the greater good, and the youthful and impetuous Queen Jelena of Liss are just some of the fascinating characters who will have an impact on the future of Nar and the stability of a world where cruelty, kindness and magic are commonplace. Marco writes riveting battle scenes (at sea and on land), and his skills with character, pacing and plot are all excellent -- something which is rare in epic fantasy today. Highly recommended.
--Claire E. White
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This review was published in the February, 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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