Chained by Fear, book two in Jim Melvinâ€™s Death Wizard Chronicles, begins the story of Laylah, the beautiful sister of the evil sorcerer Invictus.Â Â Invictus has imprisoned Laylah in a magical tower, hoping that sheâ€™ll one day become his queen and rule the world of Triken with him.
Laylah, however, happens to be the sane one in the family.Â Â Sheâ€™s repulsed at the thought of marrying her own brother, let alone spending her life with a depraved lunatic with god-like powers.Â Â Sheâ€™s locked away for seventy yearsâ€”her demon blood gives her long lifeâ€”before finally escaping with the help of Invictusâ€™s former allies.
While on the run, she meets Torg the Death-Knower, a powerful wizard in his own right.Â Â We last saw Torg inÂ Forged in Death, after he had escaped Invictusâ€™s vile prison and made some roguish friends.Â Â When Laylah and Torg meet, sparks fly.Â Â Literally.Â Â They are drawn to each other in a supernatural passion that neither can explain.Â Â They only know that their fates are entwined and that they will live or die together.
But Invictus has something to say about this.Â Â He unleashes his hideous minions to retrieve Laylah and finally destroy the Death-Knower, the one being in all of Triken that can oppose him.
When you pick up a Jim Melvin novel, you know youâ€™re in for two things:
(1) Melvin excels at world-building.Â Â Trikenâ€™s cultures, magic, and monsters all resonate with real-world mythologies.Â Â But Melvin adds unique twists that make them at once familiar and alien.
(2) Melvinâ€™s Death Wizard Chronicles are adult fantasy.Â Â Make no mistake, this series if far more G.R.R. Martin than J.R.R. Tolkien due to its sexual content and violence.Â However,Â I did not think the sex and violence were gratuitous, and I thought it helped illustrate either the depravity or kindness of the characters.
Chained by FearÂ resolves a minor quibble I had withÂ Forged in Death.Â Â Torg was too powerful in book one, and nothing could hurt him unless he allowed it.Â Â Itâ€™s the challenge that Superman’s writers have dealt with for decades: how do you make readers worry about a character who canâ€™t be hurt?
Melvin solved this by giving Torg cherished friends.Â Â He may not die if he fails, but his friends surely will, and in gruesome ways.Â Â Torgâ€™s adventures were far more harrowing this time around, and gave him the chance to demonstrate his honor and strength while he protected the people he loves.Â Â Melvin nicely sets up a character in Torg who is the polar opposite of the wicked Invictus.
And the fact they love the same woman will make their inevitable battle viciously personal.Â Â Iâ€™m looking forward to it.
[Note:Â Cross-posted at The New Podler Review of Books.]