With his debut novel, The Jackal of Nar, John Marco has now joined the ranks of Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, and, of course, J.
As the novel opens, the title character, also known as Prince Richius Vantran of Aramoor, is battling the warlords of Lucel-Lor at the orders of his emperor, Arkus the Great. Fighting against impossible odds, he realizes that just because the religious zealots of Lucel-Lor are evil madmen doesn't mean that Emperor Arkus is completely sane himself. As the story progresses, the reader's idea of right and wrong, good and evil, is constantly challenged. All of the characters, from Richius to Arkus to the evil priest Tharn, are more complex than they first appear. Each has his own hopes and ambitions, and a variety of loyalties which are not always aligned with each other.
The plot of The Jackal of Nar could have been straightforward, but Marco manages to put in enough twists to confound the reader's expectations. The politics and relationships within the novel do not always seem solid, but they lend themselves to the mechanizations required to build the complexity of the book.
Another of Marco's strengths is his ability to paint vivid and graphic images of his characters' world and bring the wonder of this land to the reader. He may, however, carry this imagery a little too far in his description of some scenes of carnage.
Marco promises that The Jackal of Nar is only the first of his Tyrants and Kings series. While it is obvious where he intends to begin the next book, he also manages to wrap up the action begun in The Jackal of Nar so the book stands very well on its own. The Jackal of Nar is an excellent introduction to a new author and promises more fantastic adventures set in this rich and complex world.
Steven H. Silver is a freelance book reviewer in Northbrook, Illinois.