Orbit, Sep 2007, $14.99
After the failure of the one race during the First Age, the Gods created five races when they rebuilt the world in the Second Age. Everyone prospered until the Huanin and Kyrinin attacked the brutal wolven Whreinin; the Gods are upset and concluding that their creation is flawed abandoned their children ending the Second Age in chaos and beginning the Third Age of the Godless World where after years of open hostilities, a truce exists between the High Thanes of the True Bloods though their direct report Thanes still somewhat fight.
However, in the Third Age, war explodes when irate High Thane Ragnor oc Gyre the Thane of Thanes of The Bloods of the Black Road, still outraged over the exile in 942 for heresy, sends his Gyre forces to conquer the lands of the Haig True Bloods south of the Vale of Stones. The war expands beyond Anlane as the Dargannan Haig Blood revolt against the Haig High Thane. All sides in the complex dispute believe they have a noble cause, but for most of the Godless World honor or not means simply their death. By 1102 the Godless World has become a hellhole with death everywhere. In this maelstrom on the southern side of the Veil of Stones Orisian nan Lannis-Haig begins an odyssey filled with bleak hope and plenty of blood.
This epic fantasy is grim with no magical last second heroics as Brian Ruckley paints quite a dark realm. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non stop action that traverses much of the Godless World. Yet the key to this excellent fantasy is the cast as the leaders of the various armies seem genuine in a Machiavellian way; for instance some see terrific personal profit in the war. Orisian and his accompanying warriors are not your typical heroes as they understand war is hell and act accordingly. Readers who enjoy a powerful enthralling thriller will appreciate Brian Ruckley’s aptly named WINTERBIRTH.