Review posted July 21, 2012.
Firebird, 2008. Originally published in 1984. 324 pages.
Here's another book I bought as soon as I heard about it, because I love the author and everything she writes. Then I didn't get it read because it's a library book and doesn't have a due date. When I decided that really shouldn't stop me from reading wonderful books, I finally got this read. I was not surprised to find it delightful.
The book begins with Jermain on the run. He falls off his horse and wakes up to find a very interesting woman named Amberglas. Then the Border Guard that has been chasing him rides up and asks the lady to step aside while they execute Jermain. But Captain Morenar doesn't know who he's dealing with:
The woman looked critically down at Jermain, then back at the Captain. "Not at all," she said firmly. "He does not look in the least dangerous. I'm quite willing to believe he is extremely foolish, but a great many people are, and I have never heard of anyone being executed for it, though I couldn't say for sure that it's never happened. Of course, if he continues to run about with that wound bleeding all over everything and making such a mess, you won't have to."
Morenar frowned and tried again. "Lady, we have been chasing this man for four hours; I assure you there is no mistake."
"Well, it is certainly rude of you to contradict me, and I don't believe you at all," the woman said flatly. "At least, I believe you have been chasing him, but not for four hours, and certainly he's not a criminal. Though I can understand why you say so; it would probably be very awkward for you to explain. So many things are; awkward, I mean. Large kettles, for instance, and carrying three brooms at once, and those fat brown birds with the red wings whose names I can't remember just at present. They waddle."
Jermain was formerly the Chief Advisor to King Marreth of Sevrain, but after she saves him, he explains to Amberglas what went wrong:
"Terrel and His Royal Highness Prince Eltiron convinced Marreth that I was guilty of treason. As a result, Marreth stripped me of my lands and position and awarded them to Terrel. Isn't that enough?"
"I do see that you might think so," Amberglas said. "Were you?"
"Was I what?"
"Were you guilty? Of treason, I mean; there are a great many other things you could be guilty of, but since you weren't accused of any of them, they don't really matter. Well, no, they do matter, certainly, but I'm not particularly interested in them at the moment, though if you happen to think of anything else you want to mention, it's quite all right with me."
"I am no traitor," Jermain said stiffly.
"I didn't think so. But of course, you could still be guilty of treason. That's why I asked about it," Amberglas said.
"No, I was not guilty," Jermain said after a moment. "Unless it's treason to believe an old friend's warning, and counsel that preparation be made." Absently, he fingered the place where the short scar on his left arm was hidden by his sleeve.
"That doesn't sound much like treason," Amberglas said. "Of course, it would depend on the friend. And the warning. Telling someone that his dinner is burning isn't treason, at least, not in most places, though I couldn't say for certain about Navren. The King there has made such extremely peculiar laws that one never knows what is treason in Navren. Or what isn't," she added thoughtfully, and looked at Jermain.
Meanwhile, back in Sevrain, Prince Eltiron gets his father angry by mentioning Jermain. And his father insists he marry Princess Crystalorn. Then Princess Crystalorn shows up at Amberglas's tower saying she does not want to marry this prince she knows nothing about.
There are plots and counterplots, treachery and the appearance of treachery. There's also a looming magical danger over the land. Jermain and Eltiron and Crystalorn need to know who they can trust and how to stop the magic.
Seven kingdoms with seven towers are involved in the magic and the danger. This book has an intricate plot with suspense and danger and even some romance. Though there are many characters to keep track of, like Amberglas they are all distinct personalities, and that only makes it more interesting.
This is an interesting and entertaining fantasy tale from a true master of the form.