Pros: Such an engrossing story!
Rating: 5 out of 5
I had intended to read a short horror novel, but then I happened to glance over the first line of Tanya Huff’s The Fire’s Stone, and I was hooked. I dove right in.
Aaron is a virtuoso thief who wants to steal something from the palace in the royal city of Cisali. Darvish is the third son of the king: a drunkard, a fop, and willing to climb into bed with anyone who appeals to him. When Aaron takes a tumble onto Darvish’s balcony, Darvish rescues him from certain death, not entirely sure of why he does so. But his father makes things clear: the moment Darvish “tires of” his thief, Aaron will die. Darvish’s father also promises him in marriage to Chandra, a sixteen-year-old neighboring princess, a marriage Darvish doesn’t want. Then the unthinkable happens–The Stone, which magically keeps the active volcano called the Lady from flooding the country of Ischia with lava, disappears! The king doesn’t want to risk causing a panic by admitting to its loss, so instead of sending an army after it, he sends Darvish and Aaron. Meanwhile, Chandra has escaped from her family by leaving a golem in her place–she’s a Wizard of the Nine, and potentially a very powerful one at that. She has decided to confront Darvish herself in order to call off the marriage, which she also does not want. She ends up accompanying Darvish and Aaron on their fool’s errand–but there’s a traitor in Cisali, and their enemy knows they’re coming.
I love the characters in this book! Darvish really and truly has some problems that hold him back, but he also has a lot of potential that has (so far) been wasted. Aaron is barely holding together–events in his past have shattered him and left him wishing to die. Chandra is inexperienced in the ways of the world, and quite proud of her position as a Wizard of the Nine, but she adapts well. Aaron, who was taught that relations between men are blasphemy, has a lot of difficulty coming to terms with the feelings he’s developing for Darvish. But he has little reason to think those feelings are returned when Darvish keeps on sleeping with other men and women. The side characters also have quite a bit to them–in particular I find Darvish’s oldest brother, Shahin, intriguing. He’s prone to dismissing Darvish out of hand, but occasionally he wonders if there might be more to the boy. He’s also loath to believe that his wife, who comes from the country that they believe stole The Stone, could be the traitor–despite the fact that it was an arranged marriage, he has come to love her.
There’s plenty of wonderful adventure in here! The warrior (Darvish is actually a very skilled swordsman), the thief, and the wizard encounter quite a few difficulties. There are dangers on the seas they have to cross to get where they’re going. They’re going to need to stealth into the castle once they get there. There are escape scenes, useful tidbits of magic, fights with other swordsmen, travels with Wandering folk, and more. The kingdoms are beautifully detailed and very enjoyable to travel through.
All in all this was a joy to read–like all of Tanya Huff’s books!–and I highly recommend it.