Warden of Greyrock (2009), by K.V. Johansen

The Warlocks of Talverdin, as a series, is a little uneven, not in writing style or level of interest, but in the narrative structure of the individual texts. Nightwalker (2007) and The Shadow Road (2010) stand alone quite effectively, but Treason in Eswy (2008) and Warden of Greyrock must be read as one longer narrative. Warden continues the search to discover the meaning of the Yehillon cult: its history, its impetus, its diabolical plans to annihilate all Nightwalkers from the world… and further. But that is in The Shadow Road.

The story opens with a flashback to a flashback initially given us in Treason in Eswy: the death of Robin and Fuallia’s grandfather near the Kanifglin Pass. This sets the stage for the continuation of the previous story, and the action then switches back to Korby’s activities as a spy on the mainland (remember? Treason also opened with Korby’s cloak-and-dagger search of a library on the mainland). The parallel is effective, returning us to the central plot that was rendered peripheral in Treason by the escape and eventual marriage of Eleanor of Eswy.

The most serious incident in Warden is the kidnapping of Annot, Baroness Oakhold, who is still not married to Maurey’lana, as his Queen and Aunt has not given her blessing, hoping that he will ultimately marry another Nightwalker and thus strengthen his hereditary ability as a Maker. In the chapters focused on Annot, Johansen slips from her usual first-person staggered narration. At first, I wondered at this, until reminded of what Annot experienced in her captivity. Annot is severely beaten in her abduction, and suffers significant, permanent, but not completely debilitating brain damage, but also awaking her latent witch-powers, related to those that manifest so strongly in her cousin Korby. For this reason—Annots lack of reason much of the time—her chapters are related in limited-omniscient third-person. This gives us the opportunity, too, of learning more of the thoughts and motivations of Katerina, erstwhile lady’s-maid to Eleanor, now wife of Alberick, the chosen lord of the Yehillon, sent in disgrace by her lord to serve the despised captive Annot.

The plot is complicated, yet woven carefully and concisely. No strings are left untied in the end; no questions in the reader’s mind stand out strongly as unanswered. Which is not to say that there are no unanswered questions: only that we feel, at the end of the novel, that the issues of import at the moment, have been resolved. As at the end of Nightwalker, and moreso at the end of Treason in Eswy, the immediate resolved concerns leave the reader with only enough sense of closure to sustain until the next installment: the real history is still slowly, fascinatingly, being revealed.

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