Top positive review
Another Hamilton Entirely
on August 7, 2001
After reading all 8 of Laurell Hamilton's Anita Blake series and "A Kiss of Shadows" I honestly thought I knew what to expect from Hamilton as a writer. When her debut novel was recently re-released I naturally picked it up, expecting to find the 'prototype' of the Blake series. I was more than a little surprised to find that "Nightseer" was in another genre entirely and that Laurell Hamilton is capable of excellent traditional fantasy. One can see hints of Anita in Keleios Nightseer, but for the most part it is as if we had stepped into an entirely different world.
Noble half elf Keleios is endowed with three magical powers. Originally she was a master enchanter and a skilled prophet. Suddenly she demonstrated powers as a sorcerer, and has had to relinquish her master rank and return to the school at Zeln's Keep to learn to control her new power. When Keleios was a child her mother was destroyed by the black witch Harque. In Keleios' quest for revenge she has walked the pit of Hell, and bears the mark of demonic corruption. Although she is not comfortable with the taint, she is able to control both black and white disciplines. In addition, she is also expert with weapons, particularly those bespelled or enchanted.
Entering a state of prophecy in the dreaming rooms at Zeln's Keep, Keleios has a horrible vision, the Keep under attack and destroyed, many of the residents enslaved or killed. She barely has time so make her warnings before the attack is under way. The Keep betrayed by one of Harque's own students. Against demonic forces Keleios is only able to assemble a small group of survivors. Lothor the dark healer, whose price is betrothal, Tobin, companion mage and close friend, Master Eroar, a true dragon and Poth, the cat. This team is betrayed into the hands of Harque and must struggle to free themselves from the witch and her minions.
This is pretty strong stuff. Hamilton, especially in her earlier novels is capable of managing a tremendous amount of plot complexity and action. The only time for relaxation here comes right after the words 'the end.' Hamilton also builds her characters very naturally. Unlike the Blake series, "Nightseer" is written in the third person, but Hamilton provides plenty of insight into Keleios, and makes masterful use of dialogue to flesh out the rest of the characters. This is a very skilled performance for a debut novel. Somewhat reminiscent of Barbara Hambly's work.
My only complaint is that "Nightseer" feels like the middle volume of a trilogy. There is clearly a great deal of story that preceded it, and too many threads are left incomplete at the end. One can only hope that someday Laurell Hamilton will be motivated to return to Keleios' world and tell the rest of the story.