Morgan Llywelyn and Michael Scott
Tor Books / 320 pages / Reprint edition (April 1, 2010)
In the midst of magic, swordplay, and deities, one thing proves stronger, more enduring, than all the forces of good and evil. In a time of savagery and mortality, some fortunate citizens of ancient Italy from elite Etruscans to rustic Temeutians will come to recognise love to be the great leveller. Not even death and its denizens can extinguish love. And in Etruscans, death is waiting behind every tree.
Young Vesi barely escapes the grasp of lethal evil. Her rape and impregnation by a foul demon mark her for execution. The intervention of her mother and a host of ancestors save her life, but whether that will turn out to be a good thing remains to be seen. Wrong or right, Vesi, her mother, and the child will be forced to live their lives far from the luxury of their home and the Silver People.
Horatrim, the offspring of that traumatic and almost fatal union, is more than a man. His abnormally rapid growth is only the most obvious of the child’s supernatural tendencies. A great danger will be the trigger that rockets him from child to adult almost overnight. As befitting a blend of man and god, it is a purely mortal attribute — a courageous heart — that will be the compass that keeps him on the right course.
What follows will be a journey that moves from peril to peril, with little time out for a breather. Because something or someone wants Horatrim and his fragile mother dead, and nothing in this world, the Netherworld, or the Otherworld is going to keep them safe.
Along the way, they will meet a variety of characters. Aid will come from the most unexpected sources. Evil hides behind the most beautiful and innocent faces.
Llywelyn and Scott have combined their considerable talents to construct a world where even the most fanciful facets are credible. The existence of all classes of the population are portrayed vividly, from the misery of the poor to the blithe assumptions of the very rich.
The terrain of ancient Italy provides a backdrop of agrarian beauty and the growth of cities. The expansion of the Roman Empire illustrates the evolution of civilisations as Europe moved from pastoral subsistence to a wealth of cultural enlightenment. Well, enlightenment for the wealthy and the powerful.
And against this dramatic setting are men, women, gods, and demons, all struggling for survival. Many of these characters will make such an impression that you will be reluctant to let them go as the book closes. (Including my personal favourite, the mysterious and complex Aegyptian, Khebet.)
The ending of Etruscans leaves little doubt that this is only the beginning of Horatrim’s adventures. More adventure — beset with risks — lie ahead for the hero and his small band. Evil is never completely destroyed and good is unwise to ever let down its guard.