Music and swords and magic. What drew me to this book when I first picked it up in the mid 90’s was, frankly, the cover illustration, but it was the idea of a quest and a world where vanquishing the villain requires a collaboration between the elements of dark and light that prompted me to read it. The world is paradoxical and complex, the plot is (simplistically) a twist on the usual idea that what is light is good and what is dark is bad. I fell in love with the world of Athera and her cast of characters. The richness of the writing makes it all come alive. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves an epic adventure with intelligence and creativity. The writing is spiced up with these lovely and wrenching moments of crystal clear description – an existential style snapshot of time… for me, the writing is visually evocative and emotionally captivating. The story focuses on two young men, Princes each, pitted against each other by the wars of their fathers. They are half-brothers born of a magical mother who has gifted them with elemental powers, one of light, one of shadow. They grew up very differently, were trained for different pursuits and have very different personalities, looks and ambitions. They are opposites in many ways. But through an arduous and wrenching twist of fate, they must work together to save a world not their own from an insidious, mysterious wraith that has swallowed the sunlight in mist. It’s a complex tale that hints at much, much more to come. The cast of characters and creatures is fascinatingly rich and the writing of Janny Wurts brings it all alive vividly. The tale is set against a backdrop of recent civil uprising, making the political landscape as treacherous as the magical one. An outcast society of clansmen, a complicated network of meddling witches, pirates, musicians, and the “not so typical” band of bearded sorcerers (one of which appears to have defected) are some of the people introduced along with the world of Athera. I really enjoyed the book on many levels. It is an epic story of flawed relationships, of the struggle to break free of imposed fate or identity, of great and small portents, and the horror of war. And magic, of course! Magic as a living force of nature. My personal favorite, the unicorns dancing… a dream of beauty so pure it can crack open the human soul. Read it.