Black Gate Online, March 3 & 10, 2013

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Black Gate Online, March 3 & 10, 2013

“The Sealord’s Successor” by Aaron Bradford Starr

Reviewed by Louis West

Aaron Bradford Starr’s “The Sealord’s Successor” is a deliciously complicated tale. Once again we follow the adventures of Gallery Hunter, Gloren Avericci, and his ever-present feline companion, Lord Yr Neh. Except this time the tale is told by Gloren’s chronicler, the bombastic yet habitually insecure Aven. Rich with quirky and mysterious characters, rife with political intrigue, Yr Neh silently laughing at all human folly and Aven tripping over himself trying to appear self-important, an exceptional tapestry I just could not put down.

The Lordship succession of the Otrock Line is in question. However, this ancient island kingdom has a unique rite of selection by which a new Lord is chosen, one which has always prevented bloodshed. All with a claim to the title gather for a viewing of The Painting, an ancient, arcane creation of the greatest practitioner of the Hundred Visible Mysteries, Dhend Attren Aon. Somehow this painting conveys its choice to the viewers with such certainty that the decision for the throne has always been immediately accepted by all.

Salianas Etherbi, the acting Sealord of Etherbi, has called her good friend Gloren to verify the authenticity of The Painting. A competitive Gallery Hunter, Garder Jho, has been summoned by Salianas’ brother, Temmel, Scion of Etherbi, to verify the authenticity of the frame. Also present for the viewing is Baron Lurec, distant cousin, and Hallmaster Terring, an Eidnine Knight tied to the Etherbi line.

Except conspiracies abound. Because of Gloren’s close (once intimate) friendship with Salianas, some suspect she had Gloren come to ensure that The Painting would select her. The other Gallery Hunter believes the designs on the border frame hold clues to deciphering the secret code of an ancient assassin’s Order. Baron Lurec has been spending considerable time in the Kels of Sionne to the south, with the Countess Therissa and her companion Velice, where an agreement of shared military resources could ensure his claim to the throne. But Gloren learns that Velice is definitely not just a noble lady but probably an accomplished assassin as well.

The viewing is held, but The Painting is blank, replaced by a fraud, leaving the succession question unresolved. Then someone throws Garder Jho off a high balcony and burns all his charcoal sketches of The Painting’s frame. Everyone suspects everyone else, and chaos ensues as.

Gloren, Yrh Neh and Aven try to determine who the thief is and recover the true painting. Chases thru the twisty, dangerous walkways of the cities of Landing Port and Rockface, constantly shifting allegiances, escape from imprisonment thru the deep passages of the mysterious, ancient Pre-Rain Underhold, revelations about who Velice and her Countess really are, all lead to a final encounter during which the genuine successor is revealed…and murdered. With the death of the successor and subsequent destruction of The Painting, the true nature of the Sealord legacy is revealed—said revelation leading to the release into the world overwhelming evil.

A gripping tale of fantasy, mystery, murder and intrigue. A must read.

Louis West. Sub-atomic physics, astronomy, biophysics, medical genetics and international finance all lurk in Louis’ background. He’s particularly fond of hard SF, writes reviews for a broad variety of SF&F stories and volunteers at various New England SF&F conferences. His own SF writing explores evolving nano-tech.