This is a classic tale of good versus evil, centering around eight mystical stones that will give the person who possesses them unimaginable power. It is Draxta’s mission, with the help of a priest with magical powers, to collect all the stones and take over the Lands of the Faith. When the leaders of the lands and custodians of the stones fail to protect them, the job of stopping Draxta falls to three adolescents: Lara, a princess; Arlan, a boy from the skinhouse training to be a fighter; and Jethro, an apprentice to a painter. Their courage and determination as they set off without hesitation to rescue the world are inspiring. Draxta’s army, however, under the protection of the Azakel’s magical powers, is unbeatable. One has to wonder what Azakel is getting out of helping an evil entity take over the world. Does he have an ulterior motive?

I really enjoyed the author’s straightforward writing style, which is easy to follow, but not lacking in eloquence. Right from the beginning, he instills a sense of mysticism with beautiful descriptions which paint pictures for the reader: “…shivering in the night chill, their black robes swirling around their ankles as the breeze off the sea picked up.” The paintings continue as the story progresses, depicting exotic lands and cultures, more magic.

The growing attraction between Lara and Jethro never becomes the focus of the story, which I think would have distracted from it. Arlan’s steadfast, level-headed presence, unhindered by romantic notions, impressed me the most.

The tail-end of the book is a little convoluted and made my head spin, but the twist at the end was very satisfying, even though I did wonder about it.

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