Dawnthief by James Barclay

(2001-12-14)

The Chronicles of the Raven: Book 1

Dawnthief begins with gripping action: the abduction of a mage and a siege of a castle. This sets the tone for the rest of the book, and indeed the series. The cast of characters is believable, the magic is handled with thought and you can barely turn the pages fast enough to keep up with the story.

The story tells the tale of the Raven, a mercenary group known for the perfection and 100% success rate on all of their jobs. They are so successful because they ultimately believe and trust in each other, the ultimate team. The Raven have been taking jobs for years and are on the brink of retirement, just finishing what was to be their last job. They have made loads of money and are looking forward to settling down and living a relaxed life before the harsh life of the mercenary catches up with them.

It turns out the close of this "last job" (which opens the book) sends them on their toughest, most important job ever-that of saving the world. The Raven never much thought of anything other than their money as an end to the job. Upon finishing this last job they run into a thief mage by the name of Denser, who steals an amulet from a Dragon, which sets the spiraling of this story. This amulet is a key component of the spell Dawnthief a super-spell which is the world of Balaia’s only salvation from the returning Wytch Lords, demi-god mages who have been imprisoned for years.

Barclay expertly draws his characters in this opening novel. As the story unfolds we learn about these characters, like the mage Illkar, the strong willed barbarian warrior Hirad and the strong mysterious Unknown Warrior. What marks these characters the most is that they are Raven, which they constantly tell themselves in order to get through each difficulty.

I like the way the magic was handled, broken up into four colleges. These colleges are centers of the land of Balaia and help to give life to the world Barclay has created.

Overall, this is not only an excellent opening series book, but an excellent book, period. What is most surprising is that it’s Barclay’s first book. Unfortunately, these books aren’t available in the United States yet. So if you want to read the book, contact publishers like TOR and DelRey and BantamSpectra!

By the time you finish reading the book, you’ll be following the words RAVEN WITH ME! In anticipation of the next volume.

Check out Barclay’s site at http://www.jamesbarclay.com

Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford
robbedford@earthlink.net


© Rob Bedford 2001

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