This novel is the third in the Nightblade Volumes. As such the review contains probably spoilers.
Following Xain’s public use of darkfire to overcome a group of Mystics, Loren and her companions must flee from both the King’s law and Jordel’s former brothers. Jordel believes they can find sanctuary with allies far to the north, but first they must cross the kingdoms. And with Xain still deep in the madness of magestone withdrawal, they must do it carrying a wizard who will do anything to satisfy his addiction.
As with the previous volumes, this is both a section of the broader arc and a self-contained narrative. And as before, Robinson skilfully balances both complete plots against continuing issues, and reminders of past events with keeping the focus on current events. Therefore, readers could start this immediately after Mystic or come to it after a break of many months with equal enjoyment; or even take this as their introduction to the world.
Much like the previous volumes, this novel takes the form of a road trip. However, while Loren now has a better understanding of the world and who might be trustworthy, the forces ranged against her have grown both in breadth and power, making the tension – if anything – higher than when she was innocent.
In addition to challenging her parochial view of the world, the journey forces Loren to face the true consequences of her vow not to kill. While Jordel continues to honour their agreement not to ask her to harm another, he – and others – kill to protect the group, leaving her questioning whether standing by while others do the killing is any better than killing yourself as a last resort.
This newer, more weary, version of Loren marks a return to the skilled characterisation of the first volume; still naïve yet more careful in her allegiances, this Loren does not suddenly aid a potential foe without clear reasons in the way the Loren of Mystic occasionally did.
Although the narrative remains focused on Loren, many of the major supporting cast undergo a parallel maturation: Gem, while still crowing like the greatest of heroes, begins to accept that a boy from the city might be more of a hindrance than a help in a wilderness filled with threats; and Xain, wracked by both the after-effects of magestone and the returning awareness of what he did while under its influence, must find a way to win back both sanity and trust.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the previous volumes.
I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.