This book is awesome, entertaining, enjoyable and something that, if I could, I would make everyone read because it is. that. good. But I do realize that its 604 pages thick brick-ness is huge, so I can understand if you're intimidated. But really, there's no need to be; it's a good book to not read through all at once, since there is a fair bit of repetition while the characters think and re-think and re-consider and re-phrase everything that happened. But still, it's great!
The story begins in the totalitarian city-state of Armethalieh, which is also called the Golden City. This is the centre of human civilization, a mighty "city of bells" that has this name because of its numerous bell-towers that ring in an intricate pattern to tell the time. This works thanks to the High Magic, a tool of the Mages who rule the city.
Now, this is a totalitarian state because not only is the system ruled exclusively by a single class of people (the Mages, who are all male because of the institutionalized sexism of the place), but also because censorship is rampant: books, musical instruments, and even every single kind of spice or ribbon design (for ladies' adornment) must be approved by the ruling Mage Council. Their logic is thus: change is forbidden, because the minutest change can breed discontent, and discontent leads people to want to leave the city. Which is a BAD THING that cannot possibly be allowed! (Read the novel for a better explanation)
Soon enough, though, things happen and the main character leaves the city - and eventually reaches the Elven Lands. But I don't want to give everything away (seriously, read this novel!), so let's leave it at that.
As its first installment, this novel serves to introduce most of the major protagonists of The Obsidian Trilogy:
- Kellen, the main character and the guy with the wavy blond hair on the cover (he's supposed to have curly brown hair, and he's 17 - but I guess the cover artist can be forgiven)
- Idalia, his older sister; she's a very skilled Wildmage, and a pretty strong character (I like her, even though she isn't on the cover)
- Shalkan, the sarcastic unicorn (on the cover)
- Jermayan, the Elven Knight (on the cover, on the horse; notice his pointy ears!)
- Vestakia. She's not on the cover and is only introduced near the end of the novel, so I'll leave it at that.
There's also a bunch of antagonists:
- Arch-Mage Lycaelon, Kellen's and Idalia's power-tripping, corrupt, bigoted father who practically rules the human city of Armethalieh
- Undermage Anigrel, during the course of the novel he grows from Kellen's tutor to something far more sinister
- Queen Savilla, Queen of the Endarkened (aka "Demons"). Very very evil.
- Prince Zyperis, Savilla's son and lover. Yeah, the Endarkened are messed up.
- Any other Mercedes Lackey novel (she's great!)
- The Lord of the Rings
- Eragon (this is a WAY better written series)
- Any book that involves elves
- Any other fantasy novel