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Myrren's Gift: The Quickening Book One    by Fiona McIntosh order for
Myrren's Gift
by Fiona McIntosh
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This first in a new series, The Quickening, is a run-of-the-mill fantasy adventure with one novel aspect - a magical gift given by a dying girl to the young hero. It gives him a helpful, though very disconcerting ability, one that complicates his life and relationships tremendously.

Wyl Thirsk is the plain, carrot-headed son of the General of the Legion of Morgravia, an inherited title. Wyl ascends to it early after his father dies on the battlefield, in an ongoing struggle with the Briavellians. The king brings Wyl to the capital, hoping that he will be a positive influence on the depraved young prince, Celimus. The latter forces Wyl to attend the torture and burning of Myrren, whose only fault is to have inherited mismatched eyes, which the kingdom's archaic Witch Stalkers consider a sign of magic. Though Myrren is not a witch, she is promised vengeance by the mysterious Elysius who speaks in her mind while she lies in a palace dungeon. Before she burns at the stake, Myrren gives a gift to Wyl, who has tried to help her. She passes on the 'Quickening', and asks him to care for her dog Knave.

The old king dies. Celimus takes power and immediately acts against those he hates. His sister's life at stake, Wyl is forced to lead a delegation to Briavel's palace in Werryl, ostensibly to ask for the hand of its princess in marriage. Treachery and murder are the true objectives. When Wyl meets princess Valentyna, it's love at first sight, but his life is soon to be changed forever in a most surprising fashion. Fortunately he has talented allies - the enchanted dog Knave and young Fynch, a Morgravian palace servant. Wyl's further adventures involve a seer. He travels to the northern mountain fortress of Cailech, who has ambitions for southern expansion and is influenced to dark deeds by his advisor, Rashlyn. As the story ends, Wyl has once again been tossed in the winds of fate and the Quickening. He seeks answers.

While I found Myrren's Gift quite readable, it is flawed by awkward plot transitions and characters whose motivations don't ring true. That aside, the series has an unusual premise and its author writes with imagination. It will be interesting to see how The Quickening develops.

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