All Harold has to do is travel across a sprawling realm, into the perilous Forests of Zagraba, and retrieve the Rainbow Horn (a magical artifact that is the only object that can neutralize the Nameless One’s power), which happens to be buried deep in Hrad Spein (aka Palaces of Bone) – ancient, haunted catacombs that have been the burial grounds for ogres, orcs, elves, and human heroes:
“No one knows who created Hrad Spein, and in which age, whose thought and strength it was that bit so deep into the bones of the earth, creating those immense caves and caverns that were later transformed into the architectural wonders of the northern world and, later still, into a world of darkness and horror…”
Accompanying Harold on his journey are a misfit group which includes a perpetually arguing gnome and dwarf, a beautiful elfin princess, a goblin jester, and some battle-tested soldiers but, before Harold even begins his quest, he stumbles across a life-changing revelation in a part of the city known as the Stain, a district of Avendoom surrounded by a magical wall to keep a mysterious evil from escaping...
Will I read the second and third installments of Pehov’s adventure fantasy trilogy? Absolutely. Will I distinctly remember this saga 10 years from now? Probably not.
Here are the concluding remarks from my review for Shadow Prowler:
“The bottom line is this: Shadow Prowler (and the Chronicles of Siala) isn’t the next coming of The Lord of the Rings. Not by a long shot. The meticulous, richly described world building isn’t there. The jaw-dropping backstory isn’t there. The societal allegory and thematic profundity aren’t there. But if you enjoy adventure fantasy on a grand scale, you will love this literary Russian import, which is comparable to Feist’s Midkemia and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar sequence…”
Well, to put it bluntly, Lena Meydan rocked my literary world to its foundations. Although Twilight Forever Rising will undoubtedly appeal to paranormal fantasy fans who enjoy works by Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison and Patricia Briggs, it’s more a “literary” dark fantasy comparable to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, etc.) or even Stoker’s Dracula. There was a narrative weight here, an unfathomably deep sense of history and existential insight and authenticity that is exceedingly rare in paranormal fantasy sagas…
The storyline is impressively intricate and does take a while to get rolling – but once it does, watch out! Set largely in modern day Russia, Meydan’s world is inhabited by numerous vampire (they call themselves “blood brothers”) clans – many of who have abided for centuries by an Oath to not take the lives of mortals. But some families want to change the status quo and become kings and queens of the night once again: “The civilization of the sheep was destroying the wolves. Transforming blood brothers into toothless calves...”
Amidst this ongoing power struggle between clans is Darel Dahanavar, an empath who wants nothing more than the clans to live in peace – and obscurity – amongst the humans. But the ruthless head of another clan has very different plans – and Darel is forced to make some very difficult decisions, not the least of which concerns Loraine, his human love interest…
There are so many layers to this narrative – it’s gritty, it’s romantic, it’s brutal, it’s philosophical, it’s a sweeping narrative about love and power and morality and survival…
I particularly enjoyed Meydan’s understated sense of sensuality, which was simultaneously poetic and sublimely erotic. For example, here’s a sequence early in the novel when Darel takes Loraine to the opera:
“Loraine had expected me to try to sit as close as possible. She didn’t know that now, as my gaze caressed her tanned, unprotected neck, I was much closer to her than ever. Loraine turned her head to look at me, and those warm little lights were trembling in her blue eyes. The rose I brought had started slowly opening on her knees, responding to the warmth of her body…”
But equally intriguing was Meydan’s deep exploration into the complex psyche of a vampire:
“We all yearn for our former life… and we take our revenge on mortals because they are so blithe and carefree, because their life is so short, because they can see the sun. That is why we transform them into creatures like ourselves – so that they will live forever and suffer just as we do…”
Yes, I said it. Lena Meydan is the Russian equivalent to Anne Rice.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.