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The Emerald Cavern    by Mitchell Graham order for
Emerald Cavern
by Mitchell Graham
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In the 1st in this series, The Fifth Ring, young Matthew Lewin gained an all-powerful ring, genetically attuned to him alone - one of a set of eight, left over from the acopalyptic demise of the Ancients. These rose gold rings activate enormous power concentrated in crystals buried deep underground.

Supported by a band of friends and a priest mentor, Matt wielded his ring against mad king Karas Duren and his psychotic sister, who used their own rings for conquest and slaughter. Matt defeated their armies and killed them. Duren had given his niece Teanna a ring. She helped Matt and revealed to him a marvellous underground city of the Ancients. As The Emerald Cavern opens, Matt and his friends are in Barcora, ruled by Gawl, the seven foot tall sculptor-king. Still at risk of imprisonment for the killing of his father's murderer, Matt comes under suspicion of other deaths, which were clearly instrumented by someone wielding a rose gold ring. And that someone is trying to kill Matt, animating stone statues against him. Who else has managed to acquire one of the eight rings?

Teanna journeys to Barcora, and flirts with Matt, who is attracted despite his discomfort at having killed her mother and uncle. His relationship with Lara also develops in this episode, as does that of his mentor (ex-general, ex-jailbird Father Thomas) with innkeeper Ceta. Soon, they're all entangled in a web of rebellion, manipulated by the mysterious bearer of the ring. I enjoyed The Emerald Cavern more than The Fifth Ring. This episode has plenty of action, and several surprises, including a cliffhanger ending. Though I find the series premise weak - the powers seem to me too godlike to come from ancient technology - and its characters not very well differentiated, it's still an engaging fantasy adventure, and I look forward to finding out how Matt and friends get out of their current predicament.

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