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The Phoenix Unchained: Book One of The Enduring Flame by Mercedes Lackey
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765315939
Date: 16 October 2007 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

A thousand years ago, the Endarkened were destroyed by the Blessed Saint Idalia, Kellen the Poor Orphan Boy and their allies, leading the world into a great flowering and an age of peace. That's what the legends say, anyway.

Now, Wildmages like Idalia are rare, Knight-Mages like Kellen are unheard-of, the High Magick of Armethalieh is long forgotten and the Elves have moved far away from humanity's lands. But that doesn't mean that all danger has vanished. Far from it.

Far from Armethalieh, a Wildmage named Bisochim has found and Bonded with a dragon, gaining vast magical power in the process. He believes that the world is out of Balance (the alignment between Light and Dark that all Wildmages swear to uphold)... and it all started with the end of the Endarkened. To that end, Bisochim sets out to restore this "missing" counterbalance to the Light, but learns that he has a distant enemy: one who may destroy him, should he live to become powerful.

That enemy is Tiercel Rolfort, son of a studious and well-born family in Armethalieh. His destiny seems to be the university, until a bit of errant lore catches his eye--and he begins to experiment with the scraps of High Magick he is able to gather. His friend Harrier Gillain, son and heir of the city's harbor master, doesn't believe Tiercel is working magic, or that his experiments have left him with terrible nightmares of a "Fire Woman" atop a burning lake.

Nevertheless, Harrier goes with Tiercel in search of a Wildmage who can help with Tiercel's nightmares. Along the way, they are befriended by Simera, a young female centaur who is hearing of dire menaces in the woodlands--menaces that seem to coincide with Tiercel learning High Magick.

Attacked from a distance by Bisochim twice, Tiercel and Harrier flee the Wildmage's assault and encounter Roneida, a Wildmage with unusual capabilities. With her help, they try to learn the identity of their enemy, even as Tiercel struggles to master his new magic. They follow hints toward a strange destination, while Bisochim rouses the shade of a long-dead god to help destroy Tiercel once and for all.

Along the way, the two young friends glimpse the danger lying in store for them and meet a dragon out of legend. But will they have time to discover their own rare, wondrous abilities before Bisochim's most deadly attack falls on them?

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory return to the setting of The Obsidian Trilogy in The Phoenix Unchained: Book One of the Enduring Flame. Time has rusted and distorted the tale of Kellen and Idalia into a legend neither would recognize, but worse, it has also robbed the people of both High Magick and the friendship of the Elves. Without these, battling an evil like the renegade Wildmage goes from challenging to nearly impossible.

Still, heroes are measured by their enemies, and Tiercel and Harrier have a formidable foe in Bisochim. Blinded by his own arrogance, he is a study in idealism gone horribly wrong; he wreaks havoc and ruthlessly exploits those he claims to love (such as Saravasse, his Bonded dragon partner) in the name of restoring the Balance. In all, he's a terrific villain for this new trilogy.

Tiercel and Harrier are great new characters as well. Young, a bit headstrong, but determined to do what they believe is right, no matter the cost, they show as much grit and determination as the heroes they know from bedtime stories. The gradual loss of innocence is portrayed in a series of revelations that challenge everything the two know--and lay the groundwork for greater revelations to come. Why was the High Magick forgotten? What led the Elves to move so far from men? And were the Endarkened really destroyed or is some vestige of them left to trigger a new war for mankind's survival?

Fans of high fantasy will surely enjoy this new trilogy, picking up a long time after the first but with just as much heroism and heart as before.

Recommended.

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