by E.C. Ambrose
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Review by Mel Jacob
DAW Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756409265
Date: 01 July 2014 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Elisha Magus is the second book of The Dark Apostle series by E.C. Ambrose. Elisha's skills were honed during a war for control of the kingdom. He is now more skilled at surgery and in use of his magic, but is also the target of evil forces that want his powers and of the witches who want society's acceptance instead of condemnation. Because he has killed to save others, he is now the target of many ordinary people as well as necromancers. His very existence is threatened daily.
This is a dark, gritty novel set in the 1400s, and follows the life of Elisha, a barber-surgeon. In Elisha Barber, the first of the series, Elisha learns he has magic and begins to learn how to use it urged on by the beautiful witch Brigit. Her mother was burned as a witch, and she desires revenge. No one trusts witches or magi. Now, he is only tolerated because the Duke of Randall took him into his household.
Elisha Magus begins with the burial service for a man killed during the recent battle, but not found until a month later. Elisha routinely attends the funerals of those he has treated either before or after their deaths. Someone shoots at Elisha during the service. Luckily, some sign alerted him and he ducks in time to survive.
Rival claimants, brothers, vie for the throne. The younger brother maneuvers to have his older brother condemned. Thus, his brother is forced to live outside society. His wife and child dead, the prince has little to live for until Elisha befriends him.
In book one, Elisha's brother commits suicide over the death of his wife and stillborn son. Elisha had tried to save both, but failed to save the child. Distraught, he makes a talisman of the infants head and later uses it to enhance his own magic. He then hid it away. Now, Brigit, affianced to the new king, wants its power for her own and steals it from Elisha. Horrified by its use, Elisha seeks only to bury it in blessed ground.
The struggle for the talisman as well as the unstable political situation drives Elisha toward claiming his true powers as a magus. Can he survive both political enemies and the necromancers?
The historical milieu is detailed and brings the period into sharp focus. The magic takes it into the realm of dark fantasy. The magical battles rivet readers' attention as Elisha fights for his life and sanity.
Book 3 looms in the wings as Elisha learns to wield his powers and protect his chosen king. Elisha's humanity makes the reader root for him despite the darkness of his world. I, for one, am looking forward to his growth and development in Book 3.