A Rumor of Dragons
Marc Courtenay, the handless youngest prince of Cathgar, has just turned eighteen and is finally an adult. He is betrothed to Lady Alisse, a beautiful maiden from the neighboring kingdom of Farling whom he has never met before. But on one fateful day, Marcs worries turn from marriage to saving his fathers kingdom and the entire world of Ganus when he discovers wizards plans to rule the planet in conjunction with the enemy Menem.
Luckily, Marcs father, King Corwynn, has escaped the dastardly Menem and the treachery of his High Wizard, Balbereth. However, King Corwynn is in no position to counter the Menem in Cathgar, and Marc knows that if the kingdom has any hope at all, he must be the one to stop the high wizards. The wizards have banded together in an attempt to stop the Turning. In the past, a Turning would happen every thousand years, when Zathra returns. During the Turning, the dimensional lines of power break and reform in unpredictable patterns. History repeats itself with each Turning, when Dragons and their Riders are set free, and wars and destruction followed.
Balbereth has plans to lead all of the wizards in claiming their rightful position in ruling the world. Perhaps the only hope for Ganus and the kingdom of Cathgar is for another Turning to occur. Although Marc does not know exactly what it is he must do to save his kingdom, he is willing to do whatever it takes and he will not let his disability stop him. While some underestimate Marcs ability because he does not have hands, Marc learns of his destiny as a Rider to open the Portal, and is determined to sacrifice everything to save his people.
I loved this novel, it was absolutely spell-binding from beginning to end, and I cannot wait to read the next installment in The Chronicles of Ganus. Heald has a true gift with words, creating drama and mystery at every turn. Like many fantasy stories, I saw a few parallels with Lord of the Rings. When Balbereth reveals his true colors to Marcs guardian, Kili, I had visions of Saurons betrayal of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. However, Heald brings so many new ideas to A Rumor of Dragons that he makes the story all his own.
I particularly liked that the hero of the novel, Marc, is eighteen, and not just a young boy. There are so many fantasy books written with younger protagonists, but I think that with a slightly older protagonist, Heald has achieved greater depth in his writing than most fantasy stories can. A Rumor of Dragons manages to explore spiritual questions of faith, while still remaining true to the fantasy element. Heald uses many central characters, which is slightly confusing at the very beginning of the book, but he weaves his characters so effortlessly into the story, telling the story from several perspectives.