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Cloudbearer's Shadow
Ann Marston
HarperPrism, 330 pages

Cloudbearer's Shadow
Ann Marston
Ann Marston grew up and lived in assorted places throughout Canada and now lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She has worked as a teacher, flight instructor, an airline pilot and an airport manager. She is deeply involved in her local Adult Literacy Project. She has two children, Laura and Daniel, plus 3 cats.

Ann Marston Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

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Cloudbearer's Shadow, the first book in the Sword of Exile trilogy, is Ann Marston's continuation of the Rune Blade trilogy. It's a traditional fantasy novel with Celtic influences.

The story follows Gareth, son of Brennen ap Keylan ap Kian, exiled Prince of the Royal House of Skai. Forced from their homes by the Somber Riders led by the evil sorcerer Hakkar, Brennen's people have fled to the island of Skerry. There they have remained for over 20 years, unable to return to their homes.

As the story opens, Gareth is being fostered by his uncle when he is called to the side of his dying father. Preparing for his journey, Gareth is troubled by mysterious dreams of his great-grandfather and his father's missing Rune Blade, Bane. He dreams that the sword has been found and is in danger of falling into Hakkar's hands.

When he arrives, Gareth finds his father in desperate need of magical healing. Against his father's wishes, Gareth returns alone to their homeland of Skai to search for a Healer for his father and to recover the Rune Blade. Soon after arriving in Skai, he meets Davigan, a bard, and his sister, Lowra, who are on a quest of their own. They join forces to aid one another. What follows is a tale of magic, intrigue and destiny. Gareth grows into his role as a Prince of Skai and discovers things about himself that he never suspected.

Cloudbearer's Shadow is essentially a traditional fantasy story. Evil sorcerers, magical blades, a young Prince with a destiny to fulfill. Although the story is well written, and the characters are enjoyable to follow, there's little that sets this story apart from the vast number of other fantasy novels on the market. While I don't have anything bad to say about it, I really don't have anything good to say about it either.

Perhaps if you've read her Rune Blade trilogy (which I confess I haven't) this book will have more appeal. Marston obviously wasn't targeting this book toward new readers. The events leading up to this book weren't explained in any great detail. The properties of the Rune Blade are still rather mysterious as is the way that magic works in Marston's world. There's so little about Hakkar, the evil sorcerer, that I didn't really feel any sense of dislike for him or his minions. All that necessary background must (presumably) be supplied by the Rune Blade trilogy.

This is the first book in a trilogy, but frankly, Cloudbearer's Shadow didn't leave me eagerly anticipating the next book in the series, as it should have. However, having said that, the allusions to events in the previous books tempted me to go back and check out her Rune Blade trilogy -- which I very well may do. Perhaps then I might feel differently about Cloudbearer's Shadow

Copyright © 1999 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.


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