Lyuc Borovoi isn’t exactly looking forward to death, but after hundreds of years fighting creatures from beyond the Rift, he’s tired and ready to be done with his job. His only friend is Bryn, a creature that should not exist this side of the Rift, but even with his companionship, Lyuc finds himself drifting further from humanity. Traveling as an elderly trader, he joins a caravan, never expecting that a boy of twenty will change the course of his life.
Yan is Unnamed, without parents and claimed by no other family. He is considered the lowest of the low and his options are few. Joining a caravan as a servant is brutal living, but it will get him closer to the prospect of work in the city. When something goes wrong, Unnamed are often blamed and Yan finds himself frequently beaten and accused of crimes just because of his status. When Lyuc steps in time and time again to protect him, Yan can’t help wanting to thank him. Lyuc shouldn’t involve himself in the affairs of humanity, but he is utterly captivated by Yan and offering his protection seems a small thing. But Lyuc is a legend of incredible power and when the affairs of gods clash with those of men, someone is going to suffer. Lyuc just has to make sure it isn’t Yan.
Whew! What a roller coaster The Wanderer was and of the very best kind. A riveting story and wonderful characters make this book an excellent fantasy read.
McAllister has done an amazing job world building here. We’re given enough information to establish a strong sense of time and place without becoming bogged down in excessiveness. Not everything is explained and I can only presume this is intentional as The Wanderer is the first in a series. But readers are never left scrambling to figure out what is happening on page or why. The plot is well defined and makes the book impossible to put down. I don’t think this is because the storyline is so profound, but rather I formed an emotional connection to the characters almost from the start. It was difficult not to and I think this is one of The Wanderer’s real strengths. It makes readers care about its characters in a fundamentally more complex way than most books.
Lyuc and Yan are the heart and soul of this novel. Their relationship evolves quickly, but without the feeling of being rushed or unbalanced. Lyuc is a man weary from too many years atoning for a mistake he helped to make. Bryn is his only companion and there is easiness between these two that speaks of nearly a thousand years together. Theirs is the comfortable existence without sexual tension, but surrounded by absolute devotion. Yan is plucky and not nearly as subservient as his position dictates he ought to be. And we love him for it. He challenges the unfair and ridiculous nature of a system that dooms men and women simply for circumstances beyond their control. He sees Lyuc as something of a protector at first, but this becomes something much more emotionally profound as they get to know one another. These two characters support and complement one another at every turn and as readers, we see the beginning of a powerful partnership between them.
The Wanderer was an excellent book. Once I started reading it, I found myself devouring it and I’m anxiously awaiting the next in the series. An intriguing plot, emotionally complex characters, and a strong fantasy scaffold make this one definitely recommended.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.