Michael Stackpole’s Talion: Revenant is the first novel he wrote, but that is hard to tell once you read the book. This is a well-told heroic fantasy with believable characters and fast paced action that keeps the pages flying by.
One might call this story the study of a hero, because ultimately, Nolan, a Talion Justice is just that, a Hero. The novel opens with Nolan, an experienced Talion Justice, in pursuit of bandits led by the rogue Morai and Nolan’s eventual disbanding of the group. The novel then switches to years earlier as Nolan arrives at the gates of Talianna, the home nation of the Talions, with aspirations of becoming a Justice. He wants to ultimately right a wrong that befell him, the killing of his entire family by the King of Hamis in his conquest of nations.
The novel takes place in the world of the Shattered Empire, a loose band of nation policed by the Talions-an elite police nation. The Talions are divided into Warriors, Wizards, Archers Lancers and the Justices, which are the highest ranking of the Talions. The rest of the novel switches between these two view points, that of Nolan as a full Talion Justice in the midst of his missions and Nolan’s growth and development through the land of Talianna as he pursues his goal of becoming a Talion.
The novel also has interesting creatures, the giant Hawks that are used as mounts by the Talions, Jevin the Fearleen, one of Nolan’s Talion companions. Fearleans are Stackpole’s version of ogres. And of course the undead nekkhit, is the reason for Nolan’s ultimate assignement. The nekkhit possess the bodies of the dead, and is being used in an attempt to take the life of King Tirrel. The only problem with this assignment, other than the usual possible death at the hands of the nekkhit, is that King Tirrell is responsible for the death and slaughter of Nolan’s family.
This parallel narrative works extremely well and again, Stackpole handles it so well that it does not read as his first novel. In the parallel narrative we see the growth of Nolan at two stages of his life, as a young man growing up and a mature man accepting his state in life. This is a novel that illustrates the fact that not every issue is black and white, not every struggle is good vs. evil.
To sum up, this novel has many qualities to enjoy: believable, likeable characters, intrigue and action, tension and struggles between characters. Highly recommended.Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford