So, if you’ve made it this far in the Rifter series, you know that John, Laurie, and Bill have inadvertently traveled to Basawar, to the year 185, when John intercepted a key meant for Kyle, his scarred, tattooed, and mysterious roommate. The three friends discovered the strange lock in which the key fits, then suddenly found themselves traveling through the shattered gates, to an unknown land. It is a land where suspected witches and revolutionaries are publicly burned, where magic goes hand in hand with danger and lurks in the shadows, where John fights for his and his friends’ survival, where he enters into a bargain that will bring him closer to the key to returning home, but will also bring him face to face with the enemy, revealing the immense power that he wields and bringing him closer to Ravishan, a young man who has become a valuable ally, a source of temptation, and who, I think, has another identity in the future. But I would never presume to believe I have things figured out. Ginn Hale’s imagination is far too sophisticated for me to be that confident.
When Kyle, the Kahlil, attempts to follow John, Laurie, and Bill through the gates to his home world, his journey takes him to a point in time years beyond where John and friends have landed, and where it is slowly becoming evident that their presence in the past has affected a change in the time/space continuum. The trip itself leaves Kyle’s body and memories in tatters, but he is rescued and eventually recovers enough to enter into service in the Bousim household, where he becomes an assassin for Alidas, a man whose life John had saved decades before and who had become the catalyst for John’s service at Rathal’pesha.
Alidas sends Kahlil on one final mission, one he may not survive, one in which he comes face to face with John, now Jath’ibaye, a storyline that is still hanging in the balance, as we spend time in the past in Witches’ Blood, witnessing John’s gradual evolution into the man he will become, with the power to do things he shouldn’t be able to do, things that enflame an enemy and that could very well brand him as a witch.
The more that’s revealed in this series, the more there is to question; the latest and greatest question being who will travel back to Nayeshi, the contemporary world, and who will be left behind. There are bargains struck to hide a potentially deadly secret that cannot be fulfilled if the key is found. There have been some hints as to who remains, but do the others make it out of Basawar alive? That remains to be seen, as a battle looms on the horizon, one that will upset the status quo.
There is as much information as action in this installment in the series, as Ginn Hale continues to artfully weave the past and the future together to create a picture of what is yet to come. This is as much a revelation of what will be as it is an exploration of how it will evolve. Every player seems to be developing into a significant cog in the war machine that is building toward an outstanding climax.
My only regret is that I can’t read fast enough to satisfy my obsession with finding out what’s coming next.