"The Lascar's Dagger: The Forsaken Lands" Glenda Larke's new novel is a big themed fantasy set during an age of trade when fortunes are being made on the high seas in far flung sailing ventures. Powerful merchants use magic to gain favor with kings, evil worshippers of A'Va seek to corrupt the pious and destroy the old religion, the selling of a strong willed King's daughter for a trade route, the unfairness of the treatment of women in a medieval setting, a King's bargain with an evil god to retain his throne, and magic are present. There is impressive world building with some well developed kingdoms from Ardrone to Lowmeer. But it is slow developing, bogs down in places and has many plot lines going at once, and the main character is easily manipulated.
Saker Rampion is a witan, a cleric for the religion of Va. The Way of the Oak is the religion in Ardrone and the Way of the Flow is more found in Lowmeer. Both are part of the Way of Va. The leader of the Va faith is Fritillary Reedling, a woman, in a world dominated by short sighted men. She employs Saker as a spy and thief. The Pontifect has championed Saker from a young age because she knows more of his background and sees a lot of potential. Arrayed against the Pontifect is Valarian Fox, the Prime, or head of the religion in Ardrone, one of the two main kingdoms in the land and the A'Va, an evil worship of the anti-religion.
The Pontifect sends Saker to Ardrone to be the spiritual advisor to Princess Mathilda and Prince Ryse, but Saker soon finds himself in danger from Fox and is also easily manipulated by the young beautiful princess, who tries to use him to thwart her father from having her marry the Regal of Lowmeer. Meanwhile, Saker is also being manipulated by the dagger at his waist, which claimed him during his last spying mission. The dagger, which is imbued with the magic of the Southern isles has plans for Saker.
The confluence of the dagger, Valarian Fox's antipathy and Mathilda's wanton ways will almost be the death of the young Saker, but he escapes a confrontation with mortal law, the sword of a zealous prince and a night with his god and returns once again to the Pontifect, now imbued with his own witchery - a power over birds.
The Pontifect sends Saker to Lowmeer to spy on the death of the citizens from the horned death. But the dagger and its owner Ardri tighten their leash on Saker too, and his new talents will help them reclaim stolen items held by the Regal, which have the power of mind control. Meanwhile in Lowmeer, Mathilda's life as a wife of the Regal and her hand maiden, who possesses her own Va witchery - a glamour that she can use to change her appearance, will run into Lowmeer's evil bargain with A'Va.
While possessing many good story elements, it reads a little slow. Saker is also too much a bumpkin and there is not enough steel in his soul. Plus, I do not like how much sway the Lascar Dagger has over Saker.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.