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A Magic of Dawn: A Novel of the Nessantico Cycle by S.L. Farrell
Cover Artist: Todd Lockwood
Review by Drew Bittner
DAW Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756405977
Date: 06 April 2010 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Interview with S.L. Farrell / Show Official Info /

An era of great change has left the city of Nessantico, former crown jewel of the Holdings empire, a shadow of its former glory--but still greater than its enemies would prefer. The rival Coalition of Firenzcia, led by the son of Nessantico's ruler, is working to topple Nessantico once and for all, while invaders from across the ocean are ready for a rematch...

This is A Magic of Dawn, the conclusion of S.L. Farrell's Nessantico Cycle trilogy. A true epic of a world torn by cultural, religious and political upheaval, this chapter brings the tale to a close -- for now.

It is fifteen years since Nessantico was sacked by the invading Tehuantin and ravaged by their former client state Firenczia. Allesandra, Kraljica (ruler) of Nessantico, is beset by myriad challenges: the Concenzia Faith is waging war against the heretical Numetodo (who do not believe that faith in the god Cenzi is necessary to work magic); her son Jan, the Hirzg (ruler) of Firenczia is realizing he made a mistake in not seizing Nessantico when he had the chance; and her personal life is complicated by the arrival of a charming stranger.

Meanwhile, Sergei ca'Rudka--former torturer and now ambassador between Nessantico and the Coalition--is furthering plans of his own, which may not be of help to Alessandra. And the prematurely aged and withered chief mage of the Tehuantin, Niente, has had a vision of his people embroiled in another war with the Holdings--one that he must bring to pass if there can be a lasting peace.

Amid the struggles between nations, many personal stories are interwoven as well. Nico Morel, last seen as a half-Tehuantin child in Nessantico's slums, is now a charismatic firebrand, seeking an end to the Numetodo. His former surrogate mother, Varina, has found a fascinating and deadly use for the combustible black sand of the invaders--one that may turn the tide in Nessantico's favor--and it seems that the infamous killer-for-hire White Stone has returned...but why now? And why in Brezno, capital of Firenczia?

As the drums of war sound once again, Nessantico will face its ultimate challenge. Will it be brought low, this time forever? Or will it triumph over its enemies and achieve a lasting golden age, albeit one bought with the blood and sacrifice of many heroic (and not-so-heroic) champions?

Farrell has achieved a career highpoint with the Nessantico Cycle, which is saying something when you realize his career spans decades and includes dozens of stories. The trilogy is epic fantasy in the best sense of the world, constructing a gigantic and complex world peopled by diverse, interesting characters, all of whom have consuming passions and urgent agendas. They live, they laugh, they fight and die--it's what fantasy readers love to see. Oh, and there's a lot of magic in the mix as well.

Much of the dynamism in the story comes from failed relationships. Alessandra and Jan could have been a great team, but for a critical misunderstanding (and a rather callous betrayal on both sides); Varina and Nico should have been much the same, but their respective beliefs drive them into enmity. Farrell is a master at building these relationships, pushing them to their breaking point and letting the situation resolve itself dramatically.

There is plenty of action and political intrigue as well, but to say more might be to spoil the story's many twists and turns. Suffice it to say, this is a trilogy that compares favorably with George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice and other recent epics of fantasy.

Highly recommended.

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