Tarius, of the land of Kartik, travels to the neighboring land of Jethrik to join their swordmaster academy. Both his parents were killed by the Amalites, and Jethrik is currently at war with the Amalites, so Tarius wants to kill Amalites. He quickly distinguishes himself as an expert with the sword, and is noticed by Darian, the headmaster, and by King Persius. Tarius also attracts the notice of Jena, Darian’s daughter, who only has eyes for Tarius. He tries everything possible to push her away, to no avail. Tarius is hiding a huge secret, which will not stay secret forever; Tarius is a woman.
Jethrik is a land of rigidly defined gender roles; among them is the absolute prohibition on women wielding steel. Tarius leads several successful campaigns against the Amalites. Persius gets the Amalites to leave Jethrik land, and agree to a peace treaty (over Tarius’ strong objections). Beings like the Amalites, with a philosophy of Convert or Die, will not be bound by a piece of paper; they will be back.
Eventually, Tarius’ secret is revealed, and, as expected, Persius, Darian and Jena hit the roof. Tarius is to be immediately executed, by being dragged throughout the kingdom, tied to the back of a horse. She is helped by friends, nursed back to health, and heads home back to Kartik. Jena is forced to marry Tragon, a man she despises. After her repeated refusal to let him into her bed, Tragon unintentionally kills her unborn child, and Jena kills Tragon. For a wife to kill her husband is a major offense, so Jena is convinced that fleeing to Kartik, to see if Tarius will take her back, is a really good idea.
This is an excellent piece of writing. It’s a sword and sorcery novel with an emphasis more on the "sword" than the "sorcery." The reader will not be disappointed.
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