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    THE ONE KINGDOM by Sean Russell


    EOS, February 2001

    Two families carry on a feud that has lasted since the disruption of the kingdom. Both sides blame the other--both believe they are the proper heirs. Now that Toren Renne, leader of the Renne, is trying to achieve peace, his own family threatens to rebel. Meanwhile, the Wills plot to marry Elise Wills into a noble family to secure its support and gain its arms. Elise's wishes simply do not matter to them.

    Although both Wills and Renne seem bound to hurdle themselves into war despite the opposition of their nominal leaders, powerful forces behind the scenes are manipulating these wishes. A fallen knight, Hafydd, long thought dead, is intent on the total destruction of the Renne whom, he believes, betrayed him. He has learned dangerous mystic skills that make him far more effective than an older knight should be. When Elise flees her forced marriage, Hafydd resolves to track her down.

    Apparently working for peace is a shadowy group of men who call themselves the Knights of the Vow. The true Knights of the Vow were destroyed a century or more before, wiped out by the Renee yet it is possible that some members may have survived. Yet these Knights gave Hafydd the training he uses to seek destruction.

    Into this vast struggle of forces and families, Sean Russell (see more reviews of novels by Russell) introduces a maveric bard/mage who can find paths where they could not exist, and a group of young men from the far north so cut off from civilization that none within the remnants of the kingdom have even heard of them. These young men both personalize the story and become pivotal players in Elise's escape and in drawing out the conflict between Wills and Renne, and between the more esoteric forces at work.

    THE ONE KINGDOM kicks off an exciting new series. Russell does a good job balancing the story hopping which has become so popular but which sometimes makes it hard to identify with characters or even follow the plot. He delivers the story in manageable chunks and probes deeply into the major characters. The world he creates is believable and interesting. The magic system appears consistent. I especially enjoyed the power to find paths where they could not exist--both in the minstrel Alaan, and in the multi-bedded river.

    Four Stars

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