by Markus Heitz
Girdlegard: a world within a world, cut off from whatever lies outside its encircling mountain barrier by vast wastes swarming with dark creatures. Within that perimeter is a complex map divided between several human kingdoms, overlapped by six enchanted realms under the rule of powerful magi, plus here and there an elven enclave, and around the edges five kingdoms ruled by the dwarves. These folks live together in an uneasy peace, made all the more uneasy by the powers of evil encroaching against them. Already the Fifthlings (one of the dwarf kingdoms) have been conquered by the powers of the Perished Land, which withers everything it touches and which turns all the dead into soulless zombie slaves. Reinforced with armies of orcs, ogres, and älfar (like evil, empty-eyed elves), and joined by an evil magus possessed by more than ambition, the Perished Land is about to make its move to bring all of Girdlegard under the dark.
Little does Tungdil the dwarf know it, but he is his world's only hope for survival. Tungdil is a foundling brought up by humans, especially the good magus Lot-Ionan. After trying without success to teach him magic, Lot-Ionan let Tungdil follow the calling of the blacksmith's forge. But only for a little while. Just before things start to get really nasty, Lot-Ionan sends Tungdil on a wizardly errand, supposedly to deliver a pouch of magical artifacts to one of his former apprentices. How much this errand owes to the magus's far-seeing wisdom is hard to tell, seeing that before very long, Lot-Ionan himself has fallen victim to the loathesome power of Nod'onn. Soon Tungdil is joined by a pair of fierce twins, the first dwarves he has ever met, who inform him that they have been sent to escort him to a council of the leading dwarves as a candidate to be their next High King.
Boïndil and Boëndal turn out to be excellent companions for a dwarf just starting to learn about who he is, while numerous people seem to be intent on killing him. The twins give Tungdil his first taste of dwarven cheese, his first experience of dwarven ballads, and his first lessons in dwarven martial arts. He has to learn fast, what with the armies of the Perished Land always right behind them and sometimes in front of them, and with a contract out on his head at least due to the magical parcel he carries, if not for the threat he represents to certain dwarves he hasn't even met yet. When the three dwarves finally arrive at the stronghold called Ogre's Death, however, it is only to begin a new and even more dangerous quest: to race against a savvy, experienced dwarf chieftain to be the first to forge the axe Keenfire, the only weapon which can destroy Nod'onn.
Tungdil's adventure is a test of his courage, tenacity, and blossoming leadership skills. Though he cares not so much for winning the race as for saving Girdlegard, Tungdil has to rein in the hostilities within his party, including dwarves of different clans, separated by personal grievances, character problems, political issues, and romantic tensions. Besides the dwarves whose skills he needs to forge Keenfire, Tungdil is joined by a troupe of actors, a tempestuous maga, and her mysterious bodyguard who can best be described as "someone (or something) who eats orcs for breakfast." Their journey underground and overland is hampered by rockfalls, enemy attacks, assassination attempts, spooky goings-on, and heartbreaking losses that call forth a courage stronger than death itself. But the outcome of the final battle will depend on Tungdil learning to accept who he truly is and what it may mean for the future of the dwarves.
A bestseller in its original German, this book comes to us in English through the translation skills of Sally-Ann Spencer. It is the first part of a trilogy that continues with The War of the Dwarves and The Revenge of the Dwarves.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 14+
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