|The Outstretched Shadow|
Author: Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
Published: November, 2003
Series: The Obsidian Trilogy
Review by: CL5 Surak
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This is volume one of what proves to be a spell-binding trilogy of great proportions.
Armethalieh, The Golden City, City of a Thousand Bells. It is known by many names and is a perfect place to live. Nothing ever changes, it is always comfortable, and the rulers of the city, the Mage Council, like to keep it that way. The Council, a very self absorbed group of the most powerful Mages, make it a very good home unless you happen to be Kellen Tavadon.
Kellen is the Arch Mage Lycaelon's son, and he is not interested in the High Magic at all, his father dislikes him and his mother is dead, he has no friends and spend most of his time wandering the lower parts of the city. Of course if he were ever caught there would be hell to pay. One day while he is wandering the Low Market he comes across three books that look a little odd, they are bound in leather and have nothing written upon them except on the spine where on all three there is a simple title. The Book of the Sun, The Book of the Moon, and The Book of the Stars. He quickly buys them and as the man is writing up his ticket he asks if he is buying the books for his siblings, he says no and asks why and the man remarks that the three are books of children’s wondertales. Kellen looks at the ticket and behold written on the slip of paper are three titles of books for children. These books are able to keep themselves hidden from any but those that they wish to be seen by.
He goes home and discovers from his fathers library that they are books of Wild Magic which is outlawed in Armethalieh. He hides the books and begins to study them in secret. He soon finds out that Wild Magic is much easier and more useful than High Magick, which is the only form of magick allowed in the city and its lands. However the Wild Magic has a price and each time he casts a spell he gains a magedebt that he must pay. When one of his magedebts keeps him gone everyday for a whole sennight (week in Armethalieh) his father searches his room and using an anti-illusion spell finds the books. Kellen is brought before the council and told that unless he renounces the Wild Magic he will be Banished. He refuses to renounce the Wild Magic and is thrown in a cell. His father then comes to him and warns him that being banished does not mean safety for at dawn of the night he is set outside the city walls the Outlaw Hunt, which is a pack of stone gollems shaped like dogs, will be released and no one has ever escaped them.
He again refuses to give in and so is given meager supplies and is banished. As he walks it begins to get too dark to walk and so he sits down and draws a circle in the dirt and performs a summoning spell not knowing what to expect. When nothing happens he is disheartened but just as he is about to step out of the circle he sees something flash white through the trees. What happens next amazes him as a Unicorn steps out of the trees. He is dumbfounded. The unicorn then introduces itself as Shalkan. He then tells Kellen that for his help Kellen will receive a magedebt and that it will be chastity for a year and a day. Kellen agrees and Shalkan tells Kellen to climb on his back that they do not have much time. Kellen does as he is told and is nearly thrown off when Shalkan takes off at a ridiculous speed, covering major amounts of distance in one bound. this continues for the whole night and just as dawn breaks Shalkan stops. He tells Kellen that the Hunt has been released and that they will not make it to the border before they are caught and that they must find a place to fight. They find a small canyon with only one entrance that they can defend. Together they fight off the pack of stone dogs and the fight nearly kills them, and just when they think they have won more dogs appear. They win against this pack as well but Kellen is unconscious at the end. Shalkan gets him on his back and takes off for the border. When Kellen awakens he is in a bed.
Next thing he knows there is a woman beside him with food and tells him to sit up. When he does he realizes he is naked and pulls the covers around himself. He is informed by the woman that he has been asleep for a long time a few days at least. He suddenly realizes that his vow of chastity may be harder to keep than he thinks as he notices how beautiful the woman is. She of course destroys that thought when she announces that she is his sister, Idalia, and a wildmage. Kellen has no idea what she is talking about but she says that she helped raise him when their mother left. Kellen never even knew he had a sister and thought his mother dead. He searched his memory and never remembered a sister, Idalia tells him that his father probably erased her from his memory. Kellen begins his new life with his sister in the Wildwoods and she begins teaching him the skills necessary to survive, along with training him in Wild Magic.
In his new home he sees many interesting and astounding things, fairies, pixies, dryads, and other creatures of magic. Also in the nearby village of Merryvale there are even Centaurs living with Humans, something the High Mages of Armethalieh would absolutely forbid. Over the next few moonturns (months) he learns to live in a rough land and even learns a bit about Wild Magic. However when his father learns that he has not been killed and is living just over the edge of the border and that his daughter, who was also banished for Wild Magic, is still living he is enraged and convinces the council to extend the border and send a scouring hunt to purge the land of all Creatures of Magic and Wild Mages. Fortunately Kellen and Idalia have been scrying, watching with magic, on the council and warns everyone in the area giving everyone time to escape.
When the city expands its borders it finds its lands barren and it inhabitants gone making the land worthless. The council is furious and pulls its borders back not to the old area but all the way back to the walls of the city. Kellen and Idalia have escaped to the land of the Elves. Meanwhile in the land of the Endarkened, the powers that be are delighted by Armethalieh's folly and put into action a plan that will hopefully bring down the people of the Bright World and allow the Demons rule over the earth. They have put a spell over the weather and caused the rains to stay away from Elven lands so Idalia and Kellen are welcomed into a vastly shrunken realm where the Elves are watering the trees and plants by hand. The Queen tells Kellen of their plight and he tells Idalia she begins using her skills as a Wildmage to discover that the Demons have created a barrier of the weather. She devises a plan for Kellen and an Elven Knight, Jermayan, to travel in the direction that she perceives it to be. She creates a keystone with the help of the elves to pay the magedebt for such a huge undertaking and Kellen and Jermayan prepare for the journey. Kellen is fitted with Elven Armor and given a sword and he and Jermayan set off.
On the way to the barrier Jermayan begins training Kellen on his use of the sword and finds that Kellen has some very special skills which makes him a Mage-Knight a very special thing indeed. His skills develop over time and when they are surprised by some very unlikely attackers. So along they go on their trip to the barrier to destroy it and that is where I will end because I do not wish to give away the spell-binding ending. Please get this book as soon as possible you will not be disappointed.
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It has a great plot and characters that you can identify with. It will keep you interested and you will not want to put it down. On par with The Wheel of Time series at least if not better and thankfully not as long.
Title: The Outstretched Shadow