Title: The Trials of Abyowith: The Stalker Chronicles Books One

Publisher/Author: Erik Buchanan

Pages: 97pp

Price: $2.99 (or free)

The niece of a powerful mage-knight, Abyowith is determined to join the Knights of the Exculpatory Order herself. Unfortunately, not only is her magic nonexistent, but she encounters one problem after another. Enroute to the trials, she stumbles into the middle of a sarusk nest and is nearly eaten. (Her horse is eaten.) When she finally does reach the trials, she barely makes it through the initial elimination rounds. And then someone starts murdering the other initiates. When suspicion falls on Abyowith, she learns quickly who she can trust, who she cannot trust, and just how far her own stubbornness and determination will take her ….

In the August 2021 issue of ev0ke, I interviewed author Erik Buchanan and reviewed The Wire Noose, the second book of The Stalker Chronicles. I enjoyed the book so much that I decided to go back and read the first volume. I was not disappointed. Buchanan did an excellent job developing both Abyowith’s character and the world she inhabits right from the beginning. She is a clever and deeply ethical young woman, driven both to make her mark on the world and to help people. She also has a blind spot when it comes to her own lack of magical abilities; she’s in denial, constantly hoping that a miracle will occur, that her magic will suddenly burst into full bloom and that she will be able to achieve her dream, after all. Reality, when it finally sets in, is harsh, but surprisingly liberating.

I’ll admit that the mystery surrounding the murders had me fooled almost until the end. The killer was cunning, able to keep the Knights running around in a near panic. And the murders were intended to incite panic: they were loud and gruesome and perpetrated against those who possessed only marginal ability to defend themselves.

The Trials of Abyowith is a terrific beginning to an exciting fantasy/mystery series. It can be purchased through most retailers in digital format, but can also be acquired for free by signing up for Erik Buchanan’s newsletter. Highly recommended to fans of Company of Strangers by Melissa McShane, Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher, and The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magics by FT Lukens.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan, no relation.]

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