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The Ring of Allaire by Susan Dexter
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The Ring of Allaire (1981)

by Susan Dexter

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Winter King's War (1)

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290438,756 (3.55)50
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    The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (humouress)
    humouress: An unusual steed is camouflaged by magic, and the quest cannot continue until the enchantment is broken.
  2. 00
    The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip (humouress)
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Full review (yes, even longer) at my blog: http://agoldoffish.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/susan-dexter-the-ring-of-allaire/

The basic structure of the story – of Allaire, and of the trilogy as a whole – is almost formulaic. A young man (19, I believe), orphaned very young and raised by, apprenticed to a wizard, is set on a huge quest even though he is not the most … ept of lads. He finds himself shoved into a destiny he never would have imagined, and for which would never assume himself capable. But, in the classic tradition, there’s no one else to do it: he is it. The first quest turns into a series of quests, which lead to one great Quest, to in effect save the world, with a wildly assorted group of traveling companions.

That right there could describe a great many fantasy novels. But that’s where these books and formula part company. Tristan, the apprentice, should be cookie cutter: he’s the young proto-magician who is called upon to be a hero, who can’t even pull off a simple spell without disaster. But Tristan ranks high among my favorite fictional characters. The majority of the three books use his point of view, and he’s an excellent traveling companion. For all his faults – and he does have faults – he also ranks high among the fictional characters I would like to meet. He is selfless in several ways; he is embarrassed by his many failures and fumbles and accidents but doesn’t let that keep him from making efforts, and it doesn’t distance him from others. He tries, he fails, he grits his teeth and picks himself up and moves on. And, too, he’s big-hearted; his loyalty, once given, is solid.

He and his master Blais live quietly apart from a village by the sea in the east of Calandra, and muddle along quite well, making their living with love philtres and minor weather witchings. There’s much call for the latter, because Calandra - and beyond – has for centuries been more and more under the spell of Nímir. No one knows exactly who or what Nímir is, but he’s evil, and powerful, and bent on – to inappropriately reference C.S. Lewis – making it always winter and never Christmas. Kind of like this past winter, only to the point where if spring is seen it’s brief and feeble.

There is a prophecy that Nímir can be defeated by a team made up of a wizard, the true heir to the throne of Calandra (which seat has been vacant for a very long time), and Valadan, the war-horse of Esdragon, a stallion who is said to have been sired by the wind and is effectively immortal. He is magic. And he’s gone. But Blais, as it turns out, has been researching the prophecies for most of his life, and must have come across something, because Nímir kills him one fine afternoon while his apprentice is out. Tristan comes home to find his master vanished, and only a message and a spell left behind, a spell which puts him on the path to find Valadan.

With him from the cottage go Thomas, a cat who scorns the title of familiar, and who is another of my favorite characters; and Minstrel, the eagle-hearted canary who refuses to be left behind simply because he is small and fragile. Dexter's handling of animal characters should be required reading for anyone who plans to do anything remotely similar - it's note-perfect.

It's a wonderful start to a wonderful series - four stars only to leave room for The Mountains of Channadran. ( )
  Stewartry | Jun 12, 2011 |
This is one of my all-time-favourite books, and Susan Dexter is one of my favourite authors.

It is about the adventures of Tristan, half-trained apprentice wizard, whose master dies and leaves him a hidden clue to help him in the quest that is the special prerogative of all wizards - to find the magical Warhorse of the Dukes of Esdragon, find the rightful heir to the throne of Calandra, wake the princess Allaire from her enchanted sleep deep within the ice fortress of Nimir (whose baneful influence is advancing, slowly and inexorably as a glacier, across Calandra) and then find the tenth ring to match the nine already on her fingers.

I love the way Susan Dexter writes and the way she describes things; a kiss tastes like summer, lavendar and strawberries, for instance. Her heroes always do their best, even if everything doesn't always go their way, and they have a peculiar vulnerability about them. The way Ms Dexter writes makes you empathise with Tristan, whether he is trying to work a new spell or is just homesick for the simple cottage life he left behind in order to fulfill the quest. I like the way she creates and weaves the old legend of Calandra and Esdragon through the story in the present, and resolves the mystery at the end.

Although this is a book about a quest, and Tristan keeps his focus on it, I was carried along by the story rather than the quest itself. This is not an epic, like Lord of the Rings, but more gentle, humourous and romantic, and there are scenes that give a satisfying sense of safety and comforting warmth.

I find it has a similar feel to Patricia A. McKillip's Riddle Master of Hed trilogy, which is another of my favourites, for many of the same reasons. ( )
1 vote humouress | Jun 1, 2010 |
Tristan is an apprentice wizard who can't seem to get his powers under control. This isn't so bad until his master is murdered and he's sent on the road to finding the ring of Allaire and saving the kingdom of Callandra. Fairly good start to a fantasy series, good enough that I'll keep reading. You can tell this was Dexter's first book; there are a few writing and character issues, but overall it's readable. I doubt I'll ever reread it, though, so it's headed for the library. ( )
  cabri | Oct 10, 2008 |
Magic student grows and learns on his quest to the ice wizard's stronghold to rescue a princess.
  AZ_Dude | Feb 3, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Dexterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Schwinger, LaurenceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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His hooves took him far and fast, for he was of an ancient breeding, older almost than the moors he ran over.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345311213, Mass Market Paperback)

Master magician Blais was dead, murdered by the evil ice-lord Nimir. Now there was only Tristan, an ill-trained apprentice, to carry on the quest to rescue Allaire, a princess held in enchanted sleep in Nimir's frozen halls. Though a thousand master mages had already failed in the quest, Tristan must succeed -- or all of Calandra would be doomed by Nimir's greed.

First Tristan would have to find the wonder-horse Valadan, who had vanished long ago. Then he had to secure the aid of the one knight among many who was a true Heir to the Throne. Together, they must overcome the Guardian dragon of Nimir's realm.

After that -- well, there was still the tenth ring to be found, since Allaire was powerless without it.

Nothing, of course, was ever that simple. There were complications . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:37 -0400)

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