The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier

July 1, 2008
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The City in the Lake
Rachel Neumeier

Knopf
7-01-08
Hardcover/924 pages
ISBN: 978-0-375-84704-2

". . . a very solid and promising beginning for this first time author."

The City in the Lake: A land without its heart in the hands of a young mage born to tap the magic at the heart of the land.

Prince Cassiel went riding and disappeared at the edge of a lake. The king suspects Neil, his first born, of kidnapping Cassiel to become heir. Neil is the king’s bastard son, and Cassiel is the heart of the kingdom. The kingdom will not flourish without its heart or without the king who disappears behind the locked doors of his room.

The mage Kapoen and his daughter, Timou, live quietly in a small hamlet on the other side of the Forest that separates their home from The City. Timou is a winter child with silver hair and pale skin and eyes the color of a winter storm, unlike Kapoen whose hair, eyes and skin are dark. She never knew her mother. As she learns magecraft from her father, Timou remembers a silver-haired, fair-skinned woman with black eyes who gives Kapoen a Rosewood cradle containing a child – her.

When the spring comes and all the young are born dead, including the child of one of Timou’s friends, Kapoen leaves for The City to help the other mages find the heart of the kingdom so life will flourish once again. Without the heart, the land will die. When Kapoen does not return at the end of summer, Timou decides to find him. But Timou doesn’t realize she is part of the mystery that has struck at the heart of the kingdom.

With echoes of Roger Zelazny’s Amber, Tolkien’s epic adventure, Andre Norton’s wild hunt and Horn Crowned Lord of her Witch World series and the Arthurian legends of the Fisher King, Rachel Neumeier creates a new world and legend in The City in the Lake. The inhabitants of Neumeier’s magical world are unique, but the roots are firmly fixed in the soil of fantasy traditions.

It seems impossible to contain an epic adventure within the confines of one volume, but Neumeier has done just that with The City in the Lake. There are riddles to unravel, magic to be learned and wielded, legends to face and a world to retake from an evil sorcerer. This adventure tale has everything, including descriptive passages that take the reader’s breath away and make one wish there was such a land. Here is proof that new fantasy can be fashioned from tried and true tools into a world that owes much to its ancestors without being derivative or an imperfect reflection.

The only sour note in the entire book is the author’s repetitive use of "cream" and "creamy", as though even her powers to render the beauty and magnificence of the city were unequal to the task. Even so, The City in the Lake is a very solid and promising beginning for this first time author.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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