After discovering Barbara Hambly via the books Dragonsbane and The Time of the Dark, I just couldn’t get enough of her. She writes great, strong women characters, that are usually of the non-magical sort. The women are often the warriors, like Starhawk. Her male characters are also indelible, flawed but inspiring.
In this book, Sun Wolf is a successful mercenary captain who refuses a job that is basically a rescue mission. The women of Mandrigyn want him to rescue their men from the mines of the evil wizard Altiokis. Sun Wolf had one rule, one principle he always adhered to – never get involved in a war with a wizard.
But the “ladies” of Mandrigyn are insistent and ingenious. They kidnap Sun Wolf and poison him to force him to help them. They have an antidote, or actually a concoction that will keep him alive, as they poison they’ve given him has no antidote.
Sun Wolf trains the women as a strike force to assist in the rescue. There isn’t much hope that they will be successful, but he doesn’t have much choice but to make the best of the situation.
On a training mission in the wilderness surrounding the city, the women have their first skirmish, but Sun Wolf is injured and separated from them. Left for too long without the antidote, the poison starts it’s slow torturous march to what Sun Wolf believes is his death. However, after many hours or days, he finds that the poison has been purged from his system and he now seems to have acquired the powers of a wizard.
Eventually, he re-unites with the women and Starhawk and an attempt at the rescue is made. Sun Wolf discovers that Altiokis isn’t really a wizard. Altiokis managed to encase a portal from another world or dimension in a stone hut, forcing it to remain open indefinitely. Sun Wolf, afflicted by one of the beings from that dimension, who burrow into a man’s brain via their eye socket, burns out his own eye with a torch to kill the thing. He then destroys enough of the castle and the hut to expose it to sunlight, thereby sealing the dimensional rift.
Hambly is such a joy to read. Her elements of adventure, fantasy, horror and romance are all woven into a wonderful story that leaves you wanting more.