Robert Newcomb scored a successful trilogy with The Chronicles of Blood and Stone. Now he returns to the land of Eutracia with SAVAGE MESSIAH, the first in a new trilogy that picks up where the previous series left off, both in terms of story and enjoyment.
In the first series we were introduced to Tristan and his sister Shailiha, the Chosen Ones who hold magical blood that give them the power to join the good (Vigors) and evil (Vagaries) forces. In the climax of the third book, Wulfgar, Tristan's evil half-brother, was defeated, but the Orb of the Vigors was damaged in that final confrontation. Now, magical energy is being bled by the damaged Orb and the kingdom is suffering greatly because of it. The only person with the power to do anything to restore the Orb is Prince Tristan, but there is a slight problem: Tristan's blood has been tainted and his ability to save the Orb and his people is impossible until his blood returns to normal. The spell that has altered his blood renders him unable to command the Vigors, and unfortunately the reversal of the spell has been lost.
As if the damage inflicted by the Orb were not enough, another menace threatens Tristan and his companions. From a lair on the Sea of Whispers, Tristan's half-brother Wulfgar, thought to have been killed, is alive and well. And very bitter. Looking to return to Eutracia and complete his previous plans, he is now joining forces with the Heretics, wielders of the Vagaries. His own mastery of the dark arts is growing and he seeks to destroy the Orb once and for all, but his vengeance is also more personal. A master assassin, Satine, has been hired by Wulfgar to eliminate those who had wronged him. The only course for Tristan and his allies is to somehow find a way to cleanse his blood. The quest to do so is full of peril and their victory may be just as damaging as their failure.
Prince Tristan continues to be a likable hero and Newcomb allows him to continue to grow here. The rest of the cast is solid, especially newly-introduced Satine. Wulfgar, however, seems a hollow copy of his previous self and perhaps more impact could have been had with a new, unknown villain. That aside, Newcomb does a very good job of opening up some secrets and surprises that will have you eagerly looking forward to the follow-up installment, and he also propels the story forward at an exciting pace with enough action interspersed to keep your blood pumping.
Newcomb weaves a good tale, to be sure. As the fourth book in a planned series of nine, however, it does feel like a middle book. This is not to say that it is unworthy of reading. In fact, it is quite the opposite. While SAVAGE MESSIAH does not hold the same punch that the previous three books had, it is still a thrilling adventure and easily ranks among some of the best to be found on the shelves these days. Readers looking for an engaging, action-packed thrill ride will be more than pleased with this title.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 23, 2011