I found this book perusing through the Prime reading section on Amazon. The book description popped out at me, so I thought "Eh, why not?" I'm certainly glad I picked it up. Although there were a few things here and there that I found problematic, I thoroughly enjoyed this read by an author I had never heard of before.
It follows the story of a group of mages, called witches in a derogatory way, as they try to save the Seven Kingdoms from an age-old curse that has sprung to life. There is little explanation for how this curse magic really works until deeper into the story, which is fine in one sense. I'm still not sure I completely understand it, though, which I'm hoping will be cleared up in the second book. From what I can gather, a mage cursed the water of the Seven Kingdoms as revenge for the wrong done him, and the curse lay dormant until the beginning of the story. There are three anchor stones that must be destroyed by a half-blood, someone with royal blood and mage blood in his veins. There is a prophecy that foretells this, so the Sentinel mages, the most powerful of them all, took things into their own hands and manipulated things so that someone would be born who fit this description.
Enter Prince Harkeld, who is both royalty and mageblooded, and who doesn't know his heritage until the Sentinel mages show up demanding that he come with them to stop the curse, which has started to creep across the land. Whoever drinks the water turns zombie-like, killing anyone and everyone, including those they love. One POV character, Jaume, is an eight-year old boy who witnesses his father killing his mother and sister. He barely escapes with his life.
Through series of events, the mages set off with Prince Harkeld, pursued by his father who will stop at nothing to kill him and expand his own kingdom by taking advantage of the curse. With a bounty on his head and a group of Fithian assassins waiting for him to collect the bounty, Harkeld battles with who he is, what he must do, and how he must accomplish it.
The mages have varying degrees of magic, although how magic works isn't explained until deep in the story. Some are born with the ability to manipulate fire, others water, others earth, some are shapeshifters. I'm not a huge fan of shapeshifting magic, but it is very well done in this book. Herkeld doesn't trust the mages, and they know they have to keep him safe. So, they decide to shapeshift into a man named Justun, who acts as an armsman to Harkeld. Since Harkeld doesn't know Justun is really a combination of the shapeshifters, he builds a trusting relationship with him. My main complaint with this is that, since the shapeshifters take turns as Justun, how in the world are they able to keep things seamless? How can they know what the prince and the armsman have talked about? This is never mentioned until almost the end of the book, when the shapeshifters share tiny bits of information with each other about what discussions they have had with the prince. But otherwise, I find it hard to believe that Harkeld wouldn't find it odd and catch on pretty quickly that Justun isn't who he says he is. How can the shapeshifters keep the same mannerisms, keep up running conversations or things mentioned in passing?
Besides this complaint, I really did enjoy the story. The writing is well done, and I have a love for quest-like stories. Harkeld's mage-blood must be placed on each anchor stone, all spread out, to end the curse. Herein lies my next complaint. If the mage who started the curse in the first place really is intent on utter destruction, why did he make a way for it to be ended so easily? Well, maybe not easily, since the stones are spread across the world. But still. There are some plot holes that left me scratching my head. I hope these are patched up as the series progresses.
All in all, I enjoyed this story and will be reading the second book. If you're a fan of shapeshifting magic, quests, hints of romance, fast-paced adventures, and don't mind there being some plot holes that might not be patched up, grab this one.