Blood of Ambrose, by James Enge, begins with the Lord Protector’s usurpation of the young King Lethmar and the attempted murder of Ambrosia, his ancient ancestress and founder of the Imperial City of Ontil.
The young prince, next on the Protectors list, flees the palace to hide in the city among his people. When Ambrosia finds him, rather then take him into hiding until he is old enough to challenge The Protector, sneaks him into the palace grounds to rescue Morlock, Ambrosia‘s beloved brother, and his dwarven assistant Wyrth.
They hide within the castle’s numerous secret passages, eventually rousing enough support from the Imperial soldiers to overthrow the Protector’s Men and retake the palace. The Protector becomes enslaved to a necromancer of incredible power and is used as a weapon, attacking the gates of Ambrose, while the Protector’s Shadow infiltrates the city itself with flesh golems created with corpses by the mistakenly titled “Company of Mercy“. Now the struggle isn’t just for Ambrose, nor the title of Emperor, but for the Empire itself.
We meet the king as a young boy who has never made an independent decision. He is annoyingly inactive, letting others around lead him where they please. As the story progresses and the boy king ages, at the combined influence of his Ministers, he develops inner strength and conviction, truly becoming worthy of kingship. He progresses from indecision to rash decisions, and eventually learns to make smart ones.
Ambrosia is impatient and very sure of the right way to do things. With a temper and tendency to lash out, she is considered to be the most formidable opponent to the Protector and The Protector’s Shadow. To the king, she is “Grandmother,” “Regent,” and precariously close to becoming the “Protector” herself.
Ambrosia’s brother Morlock is the one truly helps the king find his strength. A Master Seer and Maker, a master swordsman, Morlock is the true threat to the enemies of Ambrose. Often called The Crooked Man because of the hereditary crookedness of his shoulders, he is preceded by legends and is feared wherever he goes. He travels with a dwarf called Wyrth, his friend and assistant and a master in his own right.
With realistic and amusing dialog and a beginning that pulls you right in, this is a book you won’t be able to put down. It’s a fast-paced story where years can pass in pages. Many chapters begin with one of the characters in a desperate situation sometime after the end of the previous chapter. The rest of the current chapter is an explanation of how they got into that position. Not many things are explained in great detail, and it feels as if there may have been a book out before this. There is a wonderful brother/sister relationship between Ambrosia and Morlock that adds a sense of comfort in a story tied to war. Lethmar may be the main character but Ambrosia and Morlock truly carry the story forward.