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First installment in Ravenscliff series offers promise

“Sorcerers of the Nightwing” by Geoffrey Huntington, ReganBooks, $7.99.

To the casual observer, Devon March seems like any other 14-year-old, but looks can be deceiving. His after-school activities include moving objects with his mind and becoming invisible. Perhaps his most important talent is his ability to keep the monsters that reside in his closet at bay with a single admonishing word. Unlike most parents who would react to a monster in the closet story with a call to the therapist, Devon’s father simply reassures his son that he has the strength to conquer them. If Devon’s dad knows more, he’s not telling.

Then Devon’s dad is stricken by a sudden illness and, just before he succumbs, he reveals that Devon is adopted and that plans have already been made for him to be sent to live with Amelia Muir at Misery Point, a rugged coastal town in Rhode Island. Arriving at his new home in the midst of a violent storm, Devon finds he’ll be living in a creepy mansion named Ravenscliff. Devon adjusts well to his new family, including Muir’s fetching daughter, Cecily, and her cousin, a rather strange 8-year-old named Alexander. Devon makes friends among the young people of Misery Point, but he has brought something along from his old life – the monsters. Now they reside in Ravenscliff’s closed-off east wing and, by the scratching and clamoring going on, they seem determined to get out. Devon understands that his destiny has brought him here and that he alone may be able to prevent the unleashing of the dark and powerful force confined in the east wing of Ravenscliff.

This is book one of the Ravenscliff series. If this book is any indication, the series promises to be a winner. The book combines familiar elements from classic gothic horror movies with a Harry Potter-like theme of self-discovery. Geoffrey Huntington is the pseudonym for an author of several adult works. This series should have broad appeal.

“Journey into the Void” by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Eos, $25.95.

More than two centuries ago King Tamoras of Vinnengael was entrusted by the gods to keep the Sovereign Stone and instructed to keep it in one piece. However, in his desire to promote harmony among the different species of Vinnengael – humans, orks, elfs and dwarves – he split the stone with the Dominion Lords of the four groups, and each received a piece. King Tamoras made his biggest blunder when the center of the stone, a part of the Void, was given to his son, Dagnarus, who used the power of the stone to become the Lord of the Void. Dagnarus then attempted to overthrow the rule of his father. This led to the destruction of Old Vinnengael and 200 years of unceasing tension and dread.

Now, Dagnarus is back with a plan to unite all the pieces of the Sovereign Stone into one precious and all-powerful jewel that will make him invincible and allow him to gain control of New Vinnengael. To achieve this end, he enlists the help of the ferocious taan, whose skills in battle are rivaled only by their expertise in the magical arts. If that were not bad enough, Dagnarus develops an army of the undead, known as Vrykryls, who survive on the souls of the individuals they murder. The Dominion Lords must join forces against this seemingly unstoppable enemy.

This is the final volume of the Sovereign Stone trilogy and, as in the previous installments, the focus shifts to a new protagonist, the reluctant human Dominion Lord Shadamehr who was last seen on the brink of death at the hands of a Vrykyl knight in the previous installment. Luckily, he is saved by the magical administrations of the beautiful Alise and is able to shepherd the reader to the fast-paced, satisfying conclusion of this rewarding series.

“Naked Empire” by Terry Goodkind, Tor, $29.95.

On their trek from the Pillars of Creation to D’Hara to continue the struggle against Emperor Jagang, Richard, Kahlan and their fellow travelers find themselves stalked by flying birds known as races and watched by a soul-stealing Slide. Then there are Richard’s worsening headaches and the nagging fear that both his and Kahlan’s magical powers are mysteriously fading at an alarming rate.

While confronting all these difficulties, the group finds itself in Bandakar, a strange land populated by a race of people exiled more than 3,000 years ago by a wizard. The people of Bandakar, who follow a strict code of nonviolence, recognize the visitors’ magical abilities and beseech Richard for his help to free them from the Imperial Order and its vicious leader Nicholas the Slide. Richard, however, realizes that for the Bandakar to truly be free they must decide that freedom is worth fighting for. Richard and the others work to convince the people of Bandaker of their own abilities and the idea that individual freedom is a prize that may come with a price.

“Naked Empire” is the eighth volume of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, and its stands alone as coherent tale. It clocks in at nearly 700 pages. There’s swordplay and action, but there’s also a good deal of moral and philosophical discussion. The book, as singer Elvis Presley was known to say, could use a little less talk and a lot more action.


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