The Whitefire Crossing

Courtney Schafer
The Whitefire Crossing Cover

The Whitefire Crossing


I love sword and sorcery. Robert E. Howard, Karl Edward Wagner, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock… well, you get the idea. Based on her debut novel, Courtney Schafer may very well belong in that esteemed pantheon. In other words, I heartily enjoyed The Whitefire Crossing.

The city of Ninavel lies atop a large magical confluence in the middle of a desert. In exchange for free reign to practice their craft as they please, including dark arts forbidden elsewhere, mages swear loyalty to Lord Sechaveh and use their powers to provide the city with water. The common people of Ninavel live in fear of the sorcerers, but dream of earning a share of the riches that flow to the city.

Dev is one of those people. He earns his legitimate living as an outrider on the merchant caravans that cross the Whitefire mountains to reach Ninavel. He makes his illegitimate living smuggling magical charms into the country of Alathia, where all magic not directly controlled by the government is forbidden.

Kiran is a man on the run. He is desperate to escape Ninavel undetected. Desperate for money, Dev agrees to smuggle Kiran across the Alathian border. As you certainly expect, there is more to Kiran than he lets on. Soon he and Dev are in a race for survival, hoping to evade Kiran's pursuers long enough to cross into the presumed safety of Alathia.

The Whitefire Crossing is impressively well written. Although it can be a little jarring when the narrative switches from Dev, told in first person, and Kiran, told in third person, I was soon so drawn into the story that it became natural. Kiran's third person narrative is done to hide his many secrets from the reader. We discover them as Dev does. There are many secrets and twists in the story and most are handled expertly. The final twist at the end felt a little too deus ex machina, but that did not distract from the thrill I had reading this book.

The author bio on the inside back cover makes a big deal of Schafer's love of mountain climbing and I worried that would make for some overly intricate and lengthy descriptions of characters climbing. That worry proved false as the author conveys Dev's love and skill for climbing while displaying admirable restraint for a first novel. The result are some of the most believable caravan and mountain crossing adventures I've read in a fantasy setting.

The Whitefire Crossing is an excellent adventure and a great start to The Shattered Sigil series. It is a must read for fans of sword and sorcery.