Cloak of Magic by SA Rule (Shaihen Heritage: Book 1)

Cloak of Magic is the first book in the Shaihen Heritage series by SA Rule.

Somewhere along the line where human nature meets human imagination, myths are created. Somewhere in that space lives the spirit that created and sustains Shahaios, the Fair Land.

One man embodies the gifts of the spirit. A man all too susceptible to the human flaws that lie beneath the cloak of magic.

The journey of self-discovery for Kierce, heir to the Lord High Magician, and Caras, heir to the chief of Oreath, is inextricably bound up with the history of their land. The survival of their self-sufficient agrarian culture is threatened by the might of the sophisticated Empire of the Sacred Union, and neither Kierce’s cunning nor Caras’s courage may be enough to save the Fair Land.

Cloak of Magic is an impressive debut novel; a book of satisfying depth featuring characters worthy of empathy and a story that weaves and turns in a way conducive to the heightening and retaining of the reader’s interest. You will find that the best fantasy novels are always strong on characterisation and this is certainly the case here. Central to the story is Kierce, heir to the Lord High Magician and a charismatic, yet flawed man. He contains hidden power and the destiny of the land he loves will rest on how he can harness that power. Strong supporting players surround Kierce; there is his childhood friend Caras, a rock of a man, trustworthy, loyal and single minded.  King Rainur, the King's wife Cathva, the Imperial Commander Hiren and Orlii complete an impressive list of memorable characters that the reader will find easily identifiable.

“Caras liked his way through life clearly marked, and changes to come at a measured pace. The worst disruption to his world so far had been the loss of his parents to a fever epidemic when he had barely attained adulthood, and that was a grief shared by many other in the Holding.”
Cloak of Magic: Chapter 12 – Arhaios

The characters constantly evolve as the story progresses, some go from unpleasant to likeable and then right back to unpleasant again. These are, as has already been mentioned, very well built characters that are described skilfully using a third person narrative that allows the reader to experience their inner thoughts and emotions.

The setting of Shehaios and the Empire are described in vibrant detail, the Empire being reminiscent in places of Rome in its pomp. The author's love of history and folklore shine through and help produce and refreshing and involving story that can be favourably compared to Gemmell and Feist.

This is the first book in a series. The foundations set within Cloak of Magic are solid and have left ample room for growth. Sometimes, after having read the first book in a series, there is a sense of obligation to read the entire series to completion less the time and effort invested be wasted. This is not the case with Cloak of Magic; you find that you actually WANT to find out what happens to these characters that now have a life of their own. Highly recommended for fans of epic fantasy and sword and sorcery books.

Sue Rule lives in Edenbridge, Kent. She has been writing bits of the fictional history of Shehaios since she first dreamed up the world and its rather prosaic magic in the early 1970’s.

The Shaihen Heritage grew out of Sue’s love of history and folklore and tracks the fictional history of an imagined world which is not unlike our own. The name “she-haios" means "the home of the spirit of life" and the people who live there have an intuitive understanding of that mysterious force which created mankind and the world we all live in.

8/10 A refreshing and involving story.

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