Pros: clear writing, fast paced, brutal but intelligent characters
Cons: the story jumps around and with the size of the cast it was sometimes hard to remember who was who
When Sir Galefrid's entourage is ambushed at prayers in Willowbank, on the wrong side of the border everyone, even the villagers, is killed. Only his infant son Wistan and a sellsword, Brys Tyrell, survive.
Brys encounters a young mother and child, away from the village for the day and convinces her to accompany him and help the injured Wistan. The child is hunted by those who killed his father, including a practitioner of blood magic.
Meanwhile, the lord of Willowbank's province asks a visiting Blessed to investigate its destruction in the hopes of avoiding war with neighbouring Oakharn over the incident.
For a debut this book is very well written. The language is clear, the plot fast moving and intricate, the characters interesting. I especially liked how pragmatic the people were. I wouldn't want to know Brys, but he's a great character who knows when the fight or flee, kills without remorse when he needs to, and admires strength in others. Similarly Galefrid's younger brother, Leferic, is a ruthless but intelligent man. Despite how he becomes the acting ruler of Bull's March, it sounds like he really would be a better ruler than his brother.
I was surprised by how easily the village girl agreed to follow Brys, despite having no evidence but his word that Willowbank was destroyed. And I'd expected Leferic to consider the advantages of having Wistan returned safely earlier.
Since the story jumps between plot lines and has a large cast I sometimes had a hard time remembering who everyone was. But this wasn't a big problem.
It was a great read.