Beyond the Summerland [Paperback]

The Binding of the Blade is an original fantasy series based in part on prophecy from the book of Isaiah. Book 1, Beyond the Summerland, is where the adventure begins for a band of young Novaana, eager to serve and rule the four regions of the world of Kirthanin.

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Kirthanin is enjoying a time of peace, though Malek, Master of the Forge, and the betrayer of old, controls Agia Muldonai, the Holy Mountain. Malek’s servants are growing bolder and venturing further from their mountain stronghold, and the fragility of Kirthanin’s peace is growing ever clearer. Join this adventure of friendship, love, and betrayal. Ride through majestic forests and sail the forgotten waters. Rest a while in a summer paradise and walk the streets of an ancient and forbidden city. It will be the greatest challenge of their lives, but it is only the beginning.

Volume 1 of The Binding of the Blade

P & R Publishing (June 2004). Trade paperback. 594 pages.

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Edenstar Review:
In the field of fantasy literature, many novels seek to emulate Tolkien’s style, but few actually approach the immersive, epic potential of fantasy as well as L. B. Graham’s Beyond the Summerland. The first title in the projected five-part Binding of the Blade series introduces the world of Kirthanin and the journey of a young man named Joraiem.

As a member of the Kirthanin nobility, Joraiem must journey to the outpost of Sulare, commonly known as the Summerland, to train with his peers in skills needed to govern and defend Kirthanin from its enemies. The central enemy is a powerful Titan named Malek, whose rebellion against Allfather caused the ruin of Kirthanin in ages past. Corrupted creatures under Malek’s control routinely harass the people bordering the northern wasteland, but increased sightings and attacks by the vicious Malekim further south suggest that another invasion may be imminent.

When a brilliant light appears over the Forbidden Isle, Joraiem and his peers must put to the test their new skills in defending Kirthanin much sooner than expected. The evidence of Malek’s handiwork prompts the young nobles and their instructors to sail to the Forbidden Isle, their mission to investigate and disrupt Malek’s work. But disrupting a Titan is risky business, and enemy forces take captive a portion of their party, and leave stranded the remainder. For Joraiem, the quest to defend Kirthanin and to rescue the captives becomes even more personal, as his beloved Wylla is among the captured.

Author L. B. Graham excels in the details of epic storytelling in Beyond the Summerland. The prologue and opening chapters offer a series of skillfully woven flashbacks that set the scene for Joraiem’s role in Kirthanin history. Non-linear storytelling is no easy task, but Graham’s capable style makes the narrative time shifts easy to follow, and draws the reader in to the immersive experience of the novel. By the time Joraiem leaves home and sets out for Sulare in chapter 3, I was ready to come along, wherever the journey might lead.

While pacing in a “travel” story like this can be a challenge, Summerland doesn’t drag. Joraiem’s internal reflections and occasional visions provide a counterpoint to action sequences and the introduction of new characters. Among the cast of memorable characters is Valzaan, the mysterious ancient prophet who joins the traveling companions and takes a special interest in Joraiem’s visions. The tight focus on Joraiem’s viewpoint is especially effective at the story’s end.

Beyond the Summerland illustrates a fallen world that is perhaps not quite as fallen as our own. Most of the Kirthanin nobles demonstrate servant leadership, and put the needs of those they govern ahead of their own. Though their world has been darkened by the influence of Malek, the people of Kirthanin have not abandoned their belief in the goodness of Allfather. Faith in their creator and the observation of symbolic, sacred rites are central elements in the story. Joraiem and other characters show how to live with noble courage in a world oppressed by evil, and in so doing they call us to do the same.

With a masterful blend of adventure, heroism, tragedy and romance, Beyond the Summerland succeeds as an epic fantasy tale. Richness in world-building and depth of characters make this novel one that will please fantasy readers. Highly recommended.