By Valery Leith. This is the first book in the Everien trilogy.
The ancient Everien civilization left behind it mysterious artifacts and scientific knowledge. Ysse, the first queen to unite the warring Clans, went to Jai Pendu and brought back the powerful Fire of Glass, a seemingly infinite power source for the Fire Houses left behind by the Everiens. Jai Pendu is accessible only once every nine years, so when given a chance, she sends Quintar and his Company of 12 back to retrieve another artifact, for the inhuman and beautiful Sekk who drive humans into madness and murder are pressing the country as never before, seemingly attracted by the ancient knowledge that is used to fight them. Quintar succeeds, but only at the price of losing his own company, and he flees into despair after delivering the Water of Glass to Ysse.
I'm not sure what to say about this book. Personally, I think I need to reread it, because it sets up so many things that are weaved together in the rest of the trilogy, yet it is rather sparing with clues as to where the destination is. Even though most of the characters are somewhat flat, the plot is complex and unpredictable, leaving you wondering who is good and who is bad.
It seems obvious that the Sekk should not be completely evil, but they nevertheless cast a spell over humans which makes them kill their families and whole villages. There are hints that they are related to the vanished Everiens, but nothing substantial. Tarquin's nemesis, Night, is inscrutable and incomprehensible, impossibly fast and strong and apparently possessed of the Sekk's power to enslave to a degree thousands of times greater than any Sekk before. Yet, whenever he gets near Night, it evades his sword without trying to retaliate, and he slips into mysterious visions of a woman in a rose garden, who claims to know him and that he made her what she is.
If you read this book by itself, you will probably be disappointed. It raises many more questions than it answers, and you're left wondering more at the end than you did at the beginning. However, read the rest of the trilogy, and the hints dropped in this book congeal into a fantastical plot involving time travel, genetic manipulation and the folly of taking science too far.
There are a few sex scenes, but it isn't a constant thing. I don't know why authors feel the need to add them so unnecessarily. (I can think of one book where the sex may be justified, or at least excused on account of its importance to characterization, and it is not even explicit if I remember correctly, which I might not since I tend to skip over these things anyway.)
There is also profanity scattered throughout; although it isn't constant, it's certainly more prevalent than in most books I've read lately. Read with care.