The Fifth Ring
Eos, 2003 (2003)
Reviewed by Wesley Williamson
aras Duren, King of Alor Sator, was defeated and humiliated in his first attempt to conquer Elgaria, despite the help of the gruesome Orlocks. Over the years he has become obsessed by the need to avenge his defeat and wipe Elgaria from the map. By accident, he discovers a library of the Ancients, who destroyed themselves three thousand years before. Their technology was so magical that enormous power had been concentrated in buried crystals, activated by rose gold rings of which only eight were permitted to survive. Karas finds four of these rings. Though only one is attuned to him, he can use it to carry out his mad ambition.
eanwhile, in the small town of Devondale in Elgaria, a young man, Matthew Lewin and his friends, under the tutelage of Father Thomas, polish their fencing skills for a coming competition with teams from neighboring towns. Matthew does well despite cheating opposition from Berke Ramsey. He comes in second to Giles Naismith, who wins a rose gold ring as his prize. But as the competition ends, news comes that two children have been killed by Orlocks, and the townsfolk gather forces to find them. During a skirmish with the Orlocks, Matthew is separated from his companions and trapped. He is saved by the intervention of Giles, though the latter is killed in the fight.
atthew struggles to bring the body back to Devondale, and puts on the ring which had fallen off Giles' finger. Later, Berke Ramsey tries to kill Matthew but kills his father instead, and Matthew in a rage throttles Berke. By the letter of the law, Matthew must be tried for murder, but Father Thomas and his friends persuade Matthew to go away with them to the city of Tyrene. During their travels, Matthew learns that his father and Father Thomas served together in the war with Alor Sator; discovers that the ring he is wearing is the reason they are being sought by bands of Orlocks, that it is a ring of power, and that war has broken out in the north.
he story has one glaring problem. It tells of a young man living with his father in a small town, happy with his friends and girl friend, Lara, until it is attacked by fierce creatures, and he and his friends are forced to leave with a wise mentor, being attacked and having adventures on the way. Unfortunately, Graham's world is neither as complex nor as believable as Robert Jordan's, his characters are less developed and less interesting, and the adventures less imaginative. However, the writing is spirited enough, and the action plentiful enough to keep the reader's attention, and the plot has possibilities. I shall read the next volume with interest.
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