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Askar Paperback – February 15, 2008
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A common theme for fantasy novels is how the central, seemingly powerless, character can play a crucial role in the war of good prevailing against the odds over evil. At first I thought Askar was based on the same theme - the central character Jena is scarcely accepted as a junior priestess in Navron, the Sacred Isle of the kingdom of Urkan, when the isle is invaded by warriors from the rival realm of Askar and almost all the isle's inhabitants are massacred. Jena survives and is guided by the voice of the Goddess to follow the kidnapped high priestess Jocea to Askar. She sets out with the help of Zorek (the king of Urkan's heir) and his friend Galen.
So is it the story I expected? No, we are told at the start that the peoples of Urkan and Askar are cousins, and although in Askar they worship the god Dread, it is the Goddess's wish to see the realms reunited, and the prophecy is that Askar will rule in Urkan. So it seems that the prophecy, and the Goddess's intention, is that evil should prevail over good.
Then we find the real threat (evil?) is the invading Falhar, and that the only way Urkan and Askar can prevail against this mightier force is by reuniting.
So is this book the story of the struggle to reunite Urkan and Askar in an attempt to repel the Falhar invasion? Much more.
It is a love story between Jena and Zarek, although again this story follows anything but the expected line.
It is the epic tale of Jena, Zarek, Galen and Ahron (the Askar king's son), fulfilling their destinies (sometimes in spite of themselves). It is a story of endurance and faith winding a precarious path through war and betrayal, where the line between good and evil is very much blurred, and where seemingly peripheral and powerless characters can play pivotal roles.
A great read.