But before I get too far into the sadness let me start at the beginning. This is Branimir.
Isn't he cute? Okay not really. But looks aren't everything. Branimir is a Kras. Kept as slaves by the Highborn, Bran knows that his people are dying. In fact he's never even seen a female Kras, not even his own mother. But he is kept so busy with his daily duties he rarely even has time to think about the larger picture, like the destruction of his entire race. The Highborn are a group of magic wielding humanoids who claim to work for the gods, all of the gods.
At the beginning of this book you learn that one of them has broken an unbreakable law. And so, for the first time in history, the Highborn must execute one of their own. As a slave he is tangentially part of that process. Even though he is not part of the execution itself. He and his fellow Kras go about their normal duties, doing anything their masters ask of them. Because what else can a slave do? But even the slaves know this is a very unusual occurrence. And they don't like it. For very good reason.
After the execution, the entire world changes. Demons pour out of the mountain and overtake their stronghold. Killing Kras and Highborn alike. The few survivors are forced to flee. Bran, a pacifist by nature, goes along with them. Dorofej, possibly the oldest among the long-lived Highborn who has many interesting secrets, insists that Bran be brought along. He even goes out of his way to protect Bran. Not only are the Kras incredibly loyal, but they can also see in the dark and move faster than any human. But Bran believes there is more to it than just that. He doesn't their voice his thoughts, because the other Highborn would be more than happy to snap his neck anytime he speaks out. Even though they all believe now that Bran. The group must travel to find the Ash Tree, the tree of life, in order to correct the mistakes they have made.
It is amazing to me that so much story was put into these few 301 pages. In true Joshua Robertson style the characters are killed off one by one. Even new characters that joined them later in the quest end up dying. And poor Bran is caught in the middle of this all. Now I made a mistake, because I didn't read the books in chronological order, of thinking that poor sweet Bran would be safe, because I saw him in other books and I knew that his race was long-lived.
That was very stupid of me. This is still a book written by Joshua Robertson. Where there are plenty of things worse than death. Despite my heart ache, and me sending nasty letters to the author, I still adore this book. This is one of the great books that has you constantly thinking about what is right, what is wrong, what makes a hero, what makes a villain, and what is "good" or "right". They say the path to Hell is paved and good intentions. The problem is you don't know your destination until you reach it.
If you are new to Kalendur I suggest going to the author's website here and read the books in chronological order. It makes the entire world, with the interacting story lines come together so beautifully. Actually go there anyway because it also has maps, free novels, and all kinds of other fun stuff. Joshua is another one of those super, duper, awesome authors that keeps in touch with his fans and goes out of his way to keep you informed about his work and even the influences and myths that inspired his work. It's really intriguing. And of course if you want to get the whole series you can save money by buying the box set The Kaelandur Series.