Blood of the Four

Image of Blood of the Four
Release Date: 
March 6, 2018
Harper Voyager
Reviewed by: 

“In Queen Phela, authors Golden and Lebbon have created a female villain rivaling Lady Macbeth.”

Lysandra, queen of Quandis, has made a fatal error. While high on the drug spiza, she confesses to her lover she has indulged in something even more forbidden. She’s breeched the tombs of the Four, from whom Quandis’ royalty is descended.

“The queen was not allowed to touch the magic of the Four. Though the royal bloodline was the bloodline of the Four, their magic was not meant for any mortal soul other than select priests. Even then, they only inhaled the dregs of ancient magic. I’m also going to breathe.”

In the morning, now sober, Lysandra realizes her mistake. She disposes of the only witness to her crime as well as anyone he might’ve spoken to. In a few hours, Baron Linos is arrested and executed for heresy. His death makes his clan leaderless. His family is sold as slaves. One son is beaten to death. A friendly clan buys his wife to save her. His other son, Demos, a decorated naval officer, betrothed to Lysandra’s second daughter, is bought by his father’s enemy, destined for punishment for some slight given her ancestors by his clan.

Lysandra doesn’t know there was another witness. Her daughter Phela makes a habit of spying and gathering information for future use. She also heard the queen’s confession. During the uproar over Linos’ death, Phela arranges the assassination of her brother, heir to the throne, framing the Bajuman, the lowest of the low, for the crime. As the grief-stricken Lysandra, driven mad by the magic she possesses, orders all Bajuman killed, Phela dispatches the queen and assumes the throne.

Certain she has more strength and determination and can survive their magic, Phela ascends to the place of the Four, consuming the magic her mother was too weak to contain.

As she spied on her mother, however, some one also witnesses Phela’s crime. Blane, a novice priest, seeks solace in isolated places. He comes upon Phela as the priests prepare her. He listens to the rituals and once alone, repeats them and also absorbs the magic. Blane is Bajuman. He intends to use his magic to become the Kij’tal, the savior prophesied to free his people.

At sea, Blane’s sister, Daria, inexplicably changed so no one realizes her true caste, has become an admiral in the queen’s navy. Warned of the turmoil in Quandis, she gathers surviving Bajumen and returns to join the rebellion.

Myrinne, Demos’ betrothed, strikes a bargain with her sister. He’ll spy on his owner, the Apex Eupraxia, in return for his freedom. Needing all allies she can get, Phela agrees, and the war between magic and the natural order, of power-mad queen, and nobility wishing a return to stability, between slaves and masters, begins. In the chaos, magic-imbued queen is pitted against a war hero, a noble daughter, a faithful admiral, and an empowered priest, for control of Quandis.

Sacrifices will be made, but if the rebels fail . . .

“Everything will change now. All will bow. The Eternal Queen would lead her people to conquer all the lands across the oceans until there existed no place that could call itself anything but Quandis, or worship anything but the Four.”

Or the Five, for Phela now considers herself a god as well.

This is a powerful, if somewhat sprawling novel of greed, the abuse of power, and its result. In Queen Phela, authors Golden and Lebbon have created a female villain rivaling Lady Macbeth. Phela is wily and scheming, willing to do whatever it takes to gain the power of magic and use it to secure the throne.

Unlike her Shakespearean counterpart, however, she lacks that undermining wisp of conscience, and thus, without the distraction of guilt, is more powerful and able to successfully achieve her goal, though the cost in the end proves the same for both ladies.

The reader will no doubt pick his favorite from the cast of characters and follow that one more closely than the others, perhaps feel pity and sadness at the twists and turns the narrative takes, but each in this story has been well-drawn and delineated with such care and detail they all merit attention. From Demos, who wants merely to regain his status and live out his life with Myrinne, to the admiral who has lived in disguise her entire career and now must reveal her true caste, each is given a background with enough storyline for this single novel to have been made into a series, or at least a trilogy.

Blood of the Four is definitely fantasy on an epic level, contained in an overwhelming single volume for the reader’s convenience.