Treason Keep by Jennifer Fallon (The Demon Child Trilogy #2)

Jennifer Fallon's second novel is sparkling and engenders the kind of excitement that Eddings did with the Belgariad. Utterly gripping with the kind of plausible characters that you want to follow avidly, with clean plotlines and plausible action, Treason Keep confirms Fallon's status as a realistic quality fantasy author. Here is none of the disappointment generated by the usual publishing overhype you get on so many second rate fantasy efforts these days.

Treason Keep picks up smoothly from Medalon. R'Shiel, the Demon Child, is in the Sanctuary healing from the stabbing by the now child-like First Sister, Joyhinya. Meanwhile, her one true love, Tarja Tenragan is with the Hythrin Warlord, Damin Wolfblade and the Defenders' Lord Jenga at Treason Keep keeping at bay a Karien army, led by Prince Cratyn and urged on by the Overlord God Xaphista.

In this next installment we are introduced to two new main characters, Princess Adrina of Fardonhyan and Mikel, an overzealous young boy from the Karien army. Fallon's creation of the court trained Adrina is utterly marvellous. Much like Ce'Nedra, her fiery tempered, politically sharp mind and withering sarcasm in the face of her arranged marriage to Prince Cretin (as she calls him) is endlessly amusing and she literally can be rolled by her author into the midst of any situation to devastating effect. So, she is, firstly with her hated marriage and subsequent escape to Treason Keep and eventual relationship with Damin. It's a major subplot that grips the whole novel. So much so that Tarja and R'Shiel are in danger of fading into character obscurity.

The incredibly naive and zealous Mikel, a boy captured by the Defenders, is unwillingly subverted by Dacendaran and fervent adherent to the tenets of Xaphista. His innocence and blinkered approach to reality means he becomes a pawn for miscommunication by both sides but means he is ever-present. You follow his story with some frustration hoping that eventually the scales will fall from his eyes and he will see the truth.

As in Medalon, Fallon keeps the plot straightforward here. Whilst there is a standoff at the Karien-Medalon border, R'Shiel and Tarja concern themselves with getting the conclave at the Citadel to accept a demon-meld character of Joyhinya who can then transfer power to Mahina. This fails, R'Shiel is captured and she learns to reject the whisperings of Xaphista (very much like Garion and Torak) before striding from her captivity like an avenging angel.

So... a well-crafted, utterly gripping second fantasy novel where the quality of writing legitimately declares Fallon to be as good as the likes of Eddings, Feist and co rather than some wishful thinking quotes on the jacket that inevitably disappoint.

If you're a fantasy fan, this is quality. Buy it.

9/10 A well-crafted, utterly gripping second fantasy novel.

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