________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 14. . . .March 6, 2009


Warden of Greyrock. (The Warlocks of Talverdin; Book 3).

K.V. Johansen.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2009.
239 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-005-3.

Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.

Review by Janet M. Johnson.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



She and Margo, shouting to raise the household, surrounded, unable to reach the door, trapped back to back. Margo's opponent jeering about little girls playing with men's toys. Ronish accent. He dies, finally surprised. Someone kicks Blaze hard in the ribs, knocks him flying, and she screams at his pitiful yelp, shrieks, a sound to carry through heavy doors and sleep-heavy heads. She has men-at-arms. Where are they?"


The epic fantasy continues with action, action, action, swiftly pulling the reader into the story. The Warden of Greyrock is the third book in "The Warlocks of Talverdin" fantasy series by K. V. Johansen, a skilled writer whose background in Medieval Studies guarantees a romantic historical background for the adventure. However, any references to a bygone time are revealed throughout the book in such a natural way with common language and identifiable imagery that it is easy to "suspend disbelief." Johansen's characters and the roles in the story that they play are consistent throughout the series, and this third book culminates with no unanswered questions. Even Annot's dog, Blaze, is present in the story. If there is any complaint about the book, it is simply this; a list of personae in the story would have been nice to have at the beginning of the book along with the maps which the author has provided although readers accustomed to reading fantasy are well able to handle to long list of characters.

     The Warden of Greyrock book begins as a story told by Maury, the Nightwalker prince whose half brother is king of the human country. In the first chapter Maury is dictating, he describes the adventure of how Korby, a wild male witch of the Fenlander race, was sent to spy for enemies of the newly formed government that is trying to forge bonds between the two races. On his mission, Korby discovers the murder of Arvol, a prominent courtier we met in the previous books who was selling books he had stolen from the university. While inspecting Arvol's quarters, Korby learns about a book that Arvol was trying to sell that was very ancient, and he captures one of the murderers and learns about the Vehillon, a group of humans whose hatred of the Nightwalker has formed an underground cult headed by a Prince Alberick. This must be a very special book.

"H-Holy," he stammered. "Sacred Trust. From the Powers. We have to get rid of the Nightalkers. They don't belong here. They're wrong, they shouldn't be here. We have to get rid of them.You wouldn't understand, you filthy warlock-lover, you wallachim! We pass on the trust, mother to daughter, father to sun, through the years. We keep the light alive!"

     The next chapter is Maury's adventure searching for two young witch girls in the frontier of Westwood. From then on, the story alternates between events that are told readers by both of these main characters and by Annot when she is captured. The reader can follow the story although the speakers alternate. The author is skilled in maintaining a consistency in plot, characters and setting that flows smoothly, connecting all the speakers but also making connections between earlier events and this book. The underlying tale of the two young witch girls from the mountain and their survival and rescue is linked with secrets from the past that might be the germ of another tale. Johansen's characters are not all one dimensional which is normally the case when reading adventure stories wherein action is the most important aspect of the story. The good and the evil characters in this book face moral issues, and in some situations, make terrible decisions for good reasons. Johansen will often describe enemies as complex and tragic characters.

      There are elements of the book which might be more suitable for the more mature reader. Death and destruction are not sentimentalized, and warriors in the book act like soldiers who kill and main the enemy although there are no unpleasant gory images of battle wounds. Men and women fight and share all stations in life equally in this particular society although it is feudal. The Baroness Annot and Maury are finally given permission and allowed to marry so the story has a happy ever after component of course, and while this romance would appeal to romantics, especially some girls, there is no sexual content.

      "The Warlocks of Talverdin" trilogy, however, is more than a fast paced adventure of battling forces, wizardly spells and noble quests. Underlying the intrigue, kidnapping and battles, the theme of understanding the emotional damage of prejudice and racial intolerance is evident. Overall, this book was a pleasure to read, and I am hopeful that more stories of this world will appear in print.

Highly Recommended.

Janet M. Johnson is a librarian and instructor at Red River College in Winnipeg.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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