Janny Wurts: The Curse of the Mistwraith


Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2008
Lives in Adelaide, Australia
This is my first ever book review, so please bear with me.

The Curse of the Mistwraith - Janny Wurts

This book was published by Harper Collins in 1993, as a paperback edition, and available from the UK, NZ, AUS. It was also published in the US.

The Curse of the Mistwraith is the first installment of The Wars of Light and Shadow, a multi-volume epic that has as its main plot a constant conflict between two half-brothers, Arithon s'Ffalenn and Lysaer s'Illessid.

The book starts of with the two brothers as princes of their respective kingdoms (which are at war), and the capture of Arithon. Events soon unwind, resulting in the exile of both princes from Dascen Elur, the world of their birth

The princes are barely able to overcome their ingrained distrust of each other, and survive to arrive on Athera, where they are greeted by Dakar, the Mad Prophet (who had foretold of their coming over five centuries before), and Asandir, Sorceror of the Fellowship of Seven.

The half-brothers are prophesised to be the Bane of Desh-Thiere, the Mistwraith that has engulfed the world of Athera, which has not seen the sun for five hundred years.

The group travels across the continent of Paravia, and the half brothers encounter the bitter rivalry between the people of the town, and the clanborn, the fugitive survivors of the town lead uprising that deposed the High Kingships and the noble born.

They also first encounter the Koriani order of witches, in the form of the initiate Elaira, to whom Arithon forms a bond.

The brothers arrive at Ithamon, former seat of the s’Ffalenn High Kings, and make battle with the Mistwraith, and are finally able to trap the fell creature.

However Desh-Theire is sentient, and able to learn/wield magic, and is able to avenge itself on the brothers.

A curse is placed on the brothers by Desh-Thiere, which ensures the brother's savage enmity, thus peventing them from acting together to completely defeat Desh-Thiere.
The conflict doesn’t remain confined between the two brothers, and widens into larger battles, which have deeper roots on which to base itself, such as the centuries-old enmity between the townborn and the clans. Lysaer allies with the townborn, and Arithon with the clans, and the Mistwraith uses this old conflict to deepen the bitterness of the war. Each brother is incredibly but distinctly gifted, and their respective strengths are twisted to deepen the conflict.

Struggle is an integral part of this work, with the battle between Lysaer and Arithon, the battle within Arithon as he fights to overcome the curse, the conflicts between the townborn and clanborn, and also between the the Koriani and the Fellowship.

One of the more thrilling parts about The Curse of the Mistwraith, and the series that flows on from it, is that it is in no way predictable.
The villains/protagonists throughout the series are multi-dimensional, fully flesh, believe themselves to be in the right, and are even, at times, sympathetic, and are often viewed as the “heroes”.
The heroes/protagonists don’t always do good all the time, and are often viewed as the “villians”. The conflicts all are very human in nature, with each group honestly believing in their cause.
There are no Dark Lords in this tale, no great Enemy that bring evil in its wake, despite the in-story propaganda. The evil is much more ordinary/everyday, a human evil. Even Desh-Thiere itself appears to be the product of human conflict.
Wurts uses the attack of the townborn army of Etarra on the clanborn forest sanctuary of Strakewood, as the first major conflict between the half-brothers Arithon and Lysaer. But it is really a battle between many of the the individual characters, not just between the two brothers.
This is one of Wurts’ main strengths. The characters are all distinct, and evolve/expand within the book, (and throughout the larger series).

The Curse of the Mistwraith is the first book/story arc of the series, and is complete in itself. However the ending leaves the reader eagerly awaiting the next books, and the rest of the series to still to come, as there are many plot threads that are started in this book that are only resolved much later.
You are drawn into the next volume due to a real desire to find out what comes next. The issues of the s'Ffalenn succession to the Crown of Rathain, the fulfillment of the Black Rose Prophecy, the return of the Paravians, the re-unification of the Fellowship of Seven, Desh-Thiere in its prison on Rockfell, and the resolution of the conflict between the two brothers, all remain to be resolved.

The Wars of Light and Shadow is an epic series, with the first three story arcs completed with the recent release of Stormed Fortress.
Arc IV (of two books, Initiate's Trial and Destiny's Conflict) is underway, and is entitled Sword of the Canon, with Arc V is as yet untitled.

I give The Curse of the Mistwraith five stars, and same rating as I give to the series as a whole.

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