Harric is back and once again he’s hoping to get Sir Bannus who lies defeated in the valley. Harric brought him down with a rock fall with the magic of Unseen Moon. Loyal to the queen and hoping to deliver the Queen’s peace treaty to Kwendi. Revenge, vengeance and planning a special place for Harric is Sir Bannus’s goal as he rises from his defeat and you hear his voice loud and clear. His goal is to capture the treaty-bearers and bring war to the Queen and of course death to Harric. If the Queen falls then death would be the answer to his woes, knowing that Sir Bannus or another of the Old Ones will reclaim the throne, place him back in slavery and cast women and bastards into slavery too. Freedom is at stake. Harric’s friends do not want him to use magic or trickery to take care of Sir Bannus both of which saved him before but Harric is stoic and he thinks these are the ways that are important equally as swords or other weapons to protect the Queen.
Learning more about his quest and hearing the voices of Caris and some of the other characters that are supposed to support him what happens when they are attacked and their killers are taken out? Why does he want to take their money and weapons and anything else that could identify them or help the enemy? Why do some of the others disagree? How does the ring meant for the Queen change Caris and her feelings towards Harric? Loyalties, betrayals, trust and fear will change it all and Harric will have to decide whether to stand by Caris because of the powers of the ring? What will happen if he leaves her? Brolli is at the heart of what is happening and right now they need to find a way to get him back to his country in time to do what will change it all, ratify the treaty that he has as well as hopefully take off the power the ring has over Caris.
Each character has his/hers own goal and although Harric wants to take command, Sir Willard allows him only a certain amount of leeway as he dislikes Harris and does not think much of anyone using magic. Sir Willard has the gift of immortality and decides to grow old with Lady Anna but realizes that the key to his goals is using magic to save the Kingdom from Bannus.
Sir Willard is not my favorite character and he seems to prejudge Harris every step of the way and although he regains his immortality and his connection with Krato, might threaten his sanity. Every step of the way he relates how he hates Harric and his magic and the changes in Caris due to the ring and his connection to horses for some reason makes it hard for her to act human.
Harric is concerned about how Caris is behaving and when the Blood starts to appear and she is dealing with bleeding Molly her personality changes from scene to scene and he feels if she remains enraged she might turn back to normal. But, things do not go as planned and although they are trying to be on the same page and hoping to save the Kingdom for the Queen between Bannus and Willard two opposing forces and their hate and distaste for Harric this feat might not happen at all.
Brolli is an interesting character that is the ambassador but has other ideas and his intentions are not what you might think and his deceptions are even more dangerous. Molly is a great horse with magic but whose thirst for blood is a threat to Caris how and why?
When Harric realizes that he needed to distance himself from Caris because her behavior was odd he manages with the help of Fink to do so and we get to understand the differences between the Seen and Unseen and what takes places in each realm. Kwendi is part of the Unseen but I like Fink who is the IMP who manages to take care of Harric, keeps him centered and his personality is quite startling and definitely his sense of humor helps drive the plot. The ring is at the center of what is happening to Caris and as she twirls the wedding ring on her finger, seems to get morning sickness, and then Willard takes hold of Harric thinking he got her pregnant things take on a different turn as he once again leaves hoping that she will turn back to normal. The Queen is at the heart of this novel and although she does not want to be attached to anyone, Caris is now the holder of this ring and she hates Harric even though she lusts for him at times because of the magic of the ring.
Father Kogan is uneducated and often drunk and finds himself in the crossfire when Caris needs to wake him up and lead him to safety when Bannus is on the way. Harric then winds up running in many directions with the help of the Imp and often winds up in the Unseen and in dire trouble.
The Unseen was a complex as the Seen, but as the author relates, in the Unseen he was an infant learning to walk, recognize shapes, colors, and their meanings and to distinguish safety and danger, friend and foe. Using the Web Strand on the nexus, which engulfed his hand, he felt a feathery thrumming filling his arm. The entire chapter describes the Web Strand, how it anchors and how he adjusts to the Unseen. Caris comes into his mind; Willard has been feeding her the Blood. Did Willard know the ring would erode the weaves of the ring? Was that why he had to take the Blood and did she know? Caris was angry and her strands worked up in their own kind of frenzy. Things were getting more dangerous and she would not even talk to Harric. Losing the Old Witch really changed things as she was all powerful but somehow wound up trying to do what was right but lost the battle.
Alone in the Unseen in Chapter 52 we learn more about this realm and how Fink was the only creature loyal to him. Kwendi voices were now heard and Kwendi appeared in the trellis from doors high on the wall and their appearance would startle anyone. Their customs, their children and how they acted was described but even there Brolli had muted the expression of Kwendi tastes, for most of them had stones or witch-silver worked into their braids with colored ribbons and more.
Betrayals, lives are lost, face to face with Bannus, Willard not believing what Harric has to say about Brolli and the ending leaves you wondering where he goes next. Caris’s spell broken and the ring does not own her actions anymore but just how did this happen you will not believe? Author Stephen Merlino leaves the reader with many unanswered questions as Willard and Harric have truce, he explains what he did and saw in the Unseen but will Willard turn on him again? What will happen next to Harric, Caris and where will they wind up? What about Fink? A three day truce agreed upon between Harric and Willard but will it be honored and what happens when he uses his magic to bring Fink into the mix?
Read the Epilogue and learn what he fears and the message he hopes gets delivered. The ending is startling, the final battles are not over and the end to save the Kingdom is still not resolved. Mudruffle adds his voice but just whose side is he on and which way will Willard’s wind blow? Characters well defined and a plot that is complex and yet unique. Find out when you learn the fate of Harric: The JACK OF RUIN!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine