A power-thirsty ruler sends his armies to slaughter a peaceful race because a prophecy foretells that the savior of the earth, the only one who can foil the ruler’s nefarious plans, will be one of those people. The genocide leaves only a handful of survivors, mostly children, who flee with a guardian who hides them for their own survival. One of those children is the one destined to save the world and must be trained and protected until ready to do so.
Sounds familiar, right? Many fantasy works play off of this basic coming-of-age theme, including the esteemed Avatar: The Last Airbender series. There are several additional aspects of the Legacies of the Lore Master series that may seem familiar to fantasy lovers, but the story can stand on its own as well thanks to the magnificent world that J.T.F. Dvorak builds.
The story, though occasionally changing points of view, focuses on Zhenlar, a fourteen-year-old boy, along with his adoptive siblings and friends Sydney and Soethe, and their master Sanakan. After the town they’re staying in is raided by a swarm of soldiers, they flee on their black dragon, Leon, and Zhenlar learns the truth about his background: he, along with his three friends, is the last of the Erenden race. Furthermore, he learns of his destiny: he is the Lore Master, the only being capable of mastering the three different types of magic that exist in his world, and a promoter of peace.
Cerraterra, the world where Successor of Erenden takes place and the world Zhenlar must protect, is host to three types of magic: Human magic, Aeserith magic, and Erenden magic, a hybrid of the two available only to the Erenden race, born of a union between a Human and an Aeserith. Each system of magic has its specialties. Aeserith magic is subtle, all about influencing the environment, the real, and the unreal; Human magic focuses on brute force and elemental features, launching fierce attacks and landing hard blows; Erenden magic is a middle ground, influencing the environment with power and twisting the real and unreal to go on the offense. There are other magics too, subsets of these three divisions, and some that are so ancient or so unique that the characters themselves are unable to definitively put them into any one category.
The characters, too, are masterfully crafted. Zhenlar is mature, “wise beyond his years,” and although he must grow quickly to fulfill the role of Lore Master, Dvorak is still careful to show his readers signs that Zhenlar is still just a teenager. After giving in to a phenomenon called the Possession and witnessing the consequences, Zhenlar falls sobbing on his master, unable to comprehend the damage and death he has dealt. Any character like Zhenlar runs the risk of always asking the right questions and figuring out the right answers but Dvorak balances his successes with failures, mistakes, and missteps. Like any other teenager, Zhenlar becomes anxious and fearful, he loses his temper, and sometimes he is arrogant, he argues with his friends and he gives his trust too freely. It is the faults that Dvorak gives Zhenlar that make his journey to fully become the Lore Master a highly believable one.
King Nesaelay of Naderadd, the ruler who seeks more and more power, is also a believable villain. He is the master of himself and his kingdom, expecting respect and obedience from those who serve him, and he is firm in exacting any punishment he feels necessary when his subjects fall short. He is brutal, he is tyrannical, yet ultimately readers will find that there is more to Nesaelay than there first seems. Still, he seeks a power that he barely understands and is not above torturing a young man to determine what he must do to safeguard against any that would stop his plans. He is vicious, he is brutal, and he is a villain worthy of persevering against.
Dvorak writes Successor of Erenden in a truly wonderful way, incorporating wit and humor into a story that could have easily become centered solely on action. He, too, expands the novel into dark, grim areas, and the characters often face difficult choices, the consequences of which are very explicit. Lives are lost, both innocent and evil, friends betray one another, and there are moments of pain and agony that will linger with readers long after the novel. Yet Successor of Erenden is ultimately a novel of hope and growth, and as the climax of the story unfolds that hope becomes evident.
Successor of Erenden is a fabulous novel for almost all readers, though the youngest I would recommend would be older teenagers due to some of the darker themes it explores. J.T.F. Dvorak has certainly interested me in the Legacies of the Lore Master saga, a series that I highly recommend you delve into.