For lovers of political intrigue and multifaceted plots, Prince of Fire and Ashes will be a feast.

Prince of Fire and Ashes by Katya Reimann
List Price: $27.95 Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Tor; ISBN:
0312860099; (July 2002) 
Review by Victoria McManus
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Feature Interview: Katya Reimann

Prince of Fire and Ashes concludes Katya Reimann’s Tielmaran Chronicles with political maneuvering, magic, and sacrifice. The land of Tielmark, for many years vassal to the rich and powerful Bissanty Empire, gained a measure of independence in the first novel of the trilogy, Reimann’s debut novel, Wind from a Foreign Sky. A Tremor in the Bitter Earth further explored Bissanty’s claims, both political and magical, on Tielmark. In the new novel, sorceress and hero Gaultry Blas hopes to break the last bonds between Bissanty and her homeland and establish Prince Benet as Tielmark’s king.

Reimann lays out important pieces of Tielmark’s intricate history in a prologue set fifty years before the novel’s main action begins. There she introduces the original members of the Common Brood, a coven of seven women, each with their particular magic, such as warrior Marie Laconte and musician Julie, who were created to guard and act for the princess or prince of Tielmark. These women, or their descendents, continue to play out their roles in the next fifty year cycle, some aiding in achieving Tielmark’s freedom and some opposing. Having had this introduction, one can follow the ensuing story without having read the previous novels in the trilogy.

The plot hinges on the idea of Kinghood as an actual state of being, instilled in a ruler by the gods, linking that ruler to both people and land in a way that is almost physical. The many gods of Tielmark and Bissanty, too, have occasional physical presence on earth. Unfortunately, the necessary ritual of Kinghood was lost. Without it, Tielmark will remain subject to Bissanty and, according to a prophecy, many of the Common Brood and their descendents will die. Prince Benet engages Gaultry Blas to find the ritual again and help to enact it, so he can guarantee his land’s freedom. Gaultry has magical ability and some status, but is almost a novice at political maneuvering, which leaves her at a serious disadvantage when hindered in her search by the High Priestess Dervla, consummately polished and powerful. Following Gaultry through the maze of plot makes for exciting reading.

Little straightforward explanation is given of the complex system of Tielmark’s magic, which apparently varies if one has a “Glamour-soul” like Gaultry and her twin sister Mervion, or the “Blood Imperial.” For these characters, all magic is a fact of life, and not something to be catalogued. All magic in Tielmark, however, demands a price from the user. Magic thus provides interesting challenges rather than easy answers.

Reimann’s prose is clean and descriptive. Despite her huge cast, every character is distinct. They have their own agendas, sometimes conflicting, sometimes unknowingly in tandem. We learn on the first page that Gaultry is impatient and outspoken and that Martin is a diplomat and leader without being told directly. Reimann avoids many of the clichés of Fantasy Literature simply through good characterization. The people of the Bissanty Empire are not wholly evil, nor is Tielmark a bucolic paradise full of happy peasants.

For lovers of political intrigue and multifaceted plots, Prince of Fire and Ashes will be a feast.

© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu