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The Phoenix Unchained: Book One of The Enduring Flame    by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory order for
Phoenix Unchained
by Mercedes Lackey
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Phoenix Unchained is set in the same fantasy world as the authors' previous Obsidian Trilogy but a millennium later in time. In the Obsidian Trilogy, High Magick was misused to control and manipulate people to prevent innovation or change. Kellen stumbled upon Wild Magic and eventually wielded it as a Knight-Mage. He also discovered entire races of magical creatures, including Elves, and fought a Demon Queen. Now Kellen is revered as the Poor Orphan Boy and his story has suffered the mythic shifts and misinterpretations of time.

This first book in The Enduring Flame stars two teenagers, stubborn Harrier Gillain and ever curious Tiercel Rolfort, who have been friends since childhood and banter their way through their adventures in a fashion reminiscent of the Eddings' Belgariad. They live in Armethalieh, where Harrier's father is the city's Harbormaster and Tiercel comes from a rich, noble family. Their troubles begin with a naming day gift for Tiercel that leads him to research High Magick and to attempt its spells. He begins to have vivid nightmares of a naked woman invoking something terrible in a Lake of Fire - and awakens to a burning room. Magic is stalking Tiercel and he doesn't know what to do about it.

The friends, telling their families they're taking a vacation trip to Sentarshadeen, embark on a quest to find a Wildmage who might be able to assist Tiercel. They're helped by Fauns and a Student Forester Centaur named Simera, and attacked by outlaws and by a variety of manifestations of magic, which begin to endanger innocent bystanders. Their quest takes them much farther than intended and into greater perils than they could have anticipated. As they journey to seek help from the Elves, the authors introduce readers to their nemesis, Madiran Desert Wildmage Bisochim who is led down the slippery slope to evil actions by his good intention to prolong the life of the dragon with whom he bonded.

Harrier and Tiercel do reach the Elves, where they meet heroes out of legend, learn more of the long struggle between the races of Light and the Endarkened, and where a great sacrifice is made to empower Tiercel for the battle ahead of him. Harrier is also changed in an unexpected way, one that makes him fear the future as he knows that the Wild Magic does not give gifts without need. As this first episode ends, Harrier muses that 'things weren't just bad ... They were really bad', setting the scene for subsequent rousing adventures for this engaging pair.

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