In the Astralasphere Spiral series, Sionnach Wintergreen leads us on a fantastical journey through kingdoms only she can create. The depth and richness of her imagination seep through into her intense, poetic descriptions: from Khydgel’s tortuous Tower of Truth, where the story begins, to the haunted Temple of Fai Lon, where it ends, I am charmed by her words, and how easily she draws us into her world through details:
In one corner, a simple black helm housed a spider and its egg sac. In another, a pair of high leather boots had begun to disintegrate, one remaining erect while the other crumbled over on its side, connected to the floor by a veil of feathery webs. In the middle of the room a desk presided, still piled with journals and parchments, magnifying disks, ink wells and a quill, an orb the size of a clenched fist, a hefty hourglass, and a chalice, the bottom of which was blackened by a dust which might at one time have been bloglun wine.
The story’s antagonist, Lord Mage Asfret, is a complex beast, an Auin Gailfen, who will stop at nothing to attain the power of the Astralasphere (a relic that can empower magic-users via crystals their wear on their bodies). With his lover, Retchen, a hideous wretch deformed by spellfire, but with the ability to read minds, Asfret rampages through the kingdom, torturing and killing, on his quest to retrieve and restore the Astralasphere. Their love is treacherous: he is a man who revels in pain, and she a woman who enjoys providing it. But only so far.
It is easy to love the purple-eyed, crooked-horned hero: Lycian. A Gailfen spellcaster, he is a sweet, gentle soul who travels with his beloved old donkey, Weevil, and his grey wolf, Ayu. How can you not love a man who cares for animals? I am not sure why Lycian allows Writheria to bully him. Does he really love her? Or, is he mourning the loss of his true love, Mylinka? Like all young heroes, Lycian is an orphan with a tragic past and harbours unknown power. He is a great man, but his true destiny is yet to unfold.
The two protagonists in this story are lovers who believe each other dead. I love this concept. I have not read Book One yet, but there is enough backstory here to persuade me that they are fated. Lycian and Mylinka reside in two different places—he in Anjilith and she in Khydgel—and I hope as I read that they will eventually find each other.
Mylinka is a healer, fostered from age twelve, by the abusive Murdoth (one of the Crooked Asp) after her father is murdered at Keep Kylari. She has a few issues. It is her mission to avenge her father’s death and regain her home. I like that Mylinka becomes a strong effective assassin bent on revenging the deaths of, not only her father, but two of her best friends, with a dagger named Mercy and a sword named Despair.
Both Lycian and Mylinka suffer greatly in this story and we learn much of their history; something I dare not divulge. Suffice to say there must be a Book Three.
The book is rich, as rich as Lord Asfret intends to be. Epic fantasy, it employs a host of characters and settings. Sionnach has provided keys to the kingdom: beautiful maps and glossaries of people, places, and terms. But, though it is complex and entirely new to me, I am able to slip inside her world and travel on this complete and satisfying adventure.