Ridding the Curse
By Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
Tor Forge 24.99 336 pages
The steel blade had ripped through his cheek, and the curse had broken his life in two.
The life of young, brazen, handsome Egert Stoll seems blessed—loving and wealthy parents, youth, looks, money, and a membership in his city’s elite guard. Afraid of nothing, Egert has already killed two men in duels—“legal duels,” played according to conventional rules. However, Egert’s blessed life is changed forever when a student and visitor to his city, offended at Egert’s advances toward his fiancée, challenges him to a duel. Egert accepts the challenge and kills a defenseless man. As punishment, the mysterious Wanderer in a second duel scars Egert’s face, along with his soul. Egert, for the first time aware of his own mortality, now feels fear. He is forced into a vagabond’s life, trying to break the curse, and gets caught up in the world of Toria, the dead student’s fiancée, a world of magic and mystery.
This is a haunting book, filled with details of an unspecified and timeless European country—a world of magic, duels, and plague. Egert’s evolution from a “blowhard,” as Toria describes him at one point, into someone of real courage and empathy, is a satisfying character arc. And as might be predicted, the curse is finally lifted, in a rousing finale.
Reviewed By Stacia Levy