King Fairstad is on his deathbed, his triplet sons are desperately ill and Queen Ellyria battles exhaustion as she struggles to keep the court functioning while she nurses her family. Unlike Fairstad, she might be one of the elves and have magical powers but that is a dangerous and closely kept secret with the priests teaching that magic is evil. When her sons' fiancees arrive just as the king dies she is faced with the prospect of chaos enveloping the kingdom. Offered hope by a visiting doctor - in the form of a cure for her sons and magic talismans to protect the kingdom from the chaos that will inevitably follow the king's death - she accepts only to find that there is a terrible price to pay. Her benefactor is not what he seems and it will take all her skill and magic to protect her family and save the kingdom from disaster.
The Dagger of Dresnia is high fantasy and a great read with a nicely realised mediaeval world where magic can be good or evil. It's a well written tale with a complex and wide ranging story line with many twists but its closely observed characters are what lift it above many other similar novels. While there is plenty of action it was the relationships and interplay of the characters that engaged me most and it was a pleasant change to see a mature woman as the protagonist, something that is all too rare in speculative fiction. Intelligent and resourceful, Ellyria is not prepared to sit back and let her enemy do as he pleases. Even though he seems to hold all the power, she exploits his weaknesses wherever and however she can.
But Ellyria is not the only strong, well drawn woman. Tammirayne, the foreign princess who marries Ellyria's son, Beverak, is young, resilient and brave and she grows in unexpected ways as the story progresses. There are many others and the author devotes as much care to them as she does to the male characters who are also varied, well drawn and totally believable.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Dagger of Dresnia and am eagerly waiting for The Cloak of Challiver, the next instalment in The Talismans trilogy.
The Dagger of Dresnia is published by Satalyte Publishing in April 2014 and is available both as paperback and e-book from the publisher and Amazon
Satima Flavell's website is here, she blogs here and she is also on Facebook.