Reviewed by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
“The Emperor cares for each and every one of his subjects.”
With that bland, propaganda-like statement, Mr. and Mrs. Brackhaus introduce us to a world that seems to be a mashup of every kind of fantasy we’ve ever known. It is Game of Thrones meets Star Wars meets Harry Potter. There are medieval fortresses on volcano-ridden planets and shopping malls with movie theaters on lush tropical islands. It is a world with electricity and human slavery, with interplanetary teleportation and combustion engines. To pull off this sort of all-embracing vision, it takes a careful writer who can manage details and keep track of things. At first, I giggled at the absurdity of it all, but I was pretty quickly sucked into the rather gentle dream that Beryll and Osiris have created for us.
Yaden Quetzal is all of five when he and his shocked parents discover that he has the power to quell volcanoes and calm earthquakes. This is useful on his volatile home planet of Erys, where his parents are Vivaine and Giano Quetzal, Duke and Duchess of Erys, close relatives of the Virasana Emperor. Little Yaden is the most powerful psion in all humanity.
So, his mother, not knowing what else to do, decides to buy him a slave.
Darios, a failed gladiator on a planet where slavery is big business in a strangely modern way, becomes both Yaden’s guardian and one of the two narrators of this adventure. Darios accompanies the twenty-three-year-old Yaden, now an imperial Lotus Knight, to go undercover to the hostile, gray planet of Leichnam (which we are told means corpse). There, disguised as tradesmen, they must investigate an aura of demonism that hangs over the little gray fishing town of Hagermarsh.
The central jewel in this story is the relationship between the slave Darios and his owner Yaden. Theirs is the love of father and child, admixed with that of close friends. The entire book is peppered with Darios’ memories, explaining both Yaden’s background and the development of their life together. The Hagermarsh adventure itself seems largely mild and almost comical, until it isn’t. In this part of the narrative we get to witness the Yaden that Darios has raised, from terrified, lonely, underfed boy to super-hero-in-training. Yaden is ever hesitant, always wondering if he’s up to the task; and always looks to Darios for reassurance and tenderness. Yaden knows how powerful he is but is in no way cocky or arrogant. Like the catchphrase of the Emperor, Yaden truly cares, not only about the people of the empire, but the planets themselves.
To complicate their investigation, Yaden begins to feel love and attraction for the first time in his life, falling for the pretty baker Colin, whose shop is across the street. Once again, it is to Darios that he turns for advice and reassurance. It all seems far too gentle and cozy, until push comes to shove and Yaden is at last called upon to demonstrate his true mettle.
I really loved the writing here, the wide-eyed, curious tone that the Brackhauses give to the narrative, and the delight in throwing in detail after detail. I loved the profound affection that binds Darios and Yaden. Of course, I also loved both of these characters very much individually, because one rarely meets such purely good-hearted people in interplanetary empires.
I bought the second book in the Sir Yaden series without even reading the blurb. This is a world I want to get to know better.