Any chance to re-enter the world of Lodoss is a welcome one as far as I'm concerned. Set 100 years after the events of the original Lodoss War saga, the descendants of the fabled heroes find the peace about to be shattered as once again the Kingdom of Flaim is preparing for war.
The princes of Malmo discover that the new King of Flaim has refused to don the magical crown given to each realm that magically protects the peace, thereby signalling their intent to take control of the cursed isle. Meeting to devise a plan, each prince takes their own role - second Prince Alucia will defend the kingdom, third Prince Zayd will feign treason to infiltrate Flaim and young Prince Lyle will seek the eternal maiden Deedlit to inspire support across Lodoss. The planning stages were a bit hard to follow as the translation was, at times, a bit too literal and lifeless, but once the technicalities were out of the way, the book skillfully introduced a number of key players and interesting parties to keep the story moving at a brisk pace.
There are plenty of mentions of our original cast to keep things grounded in Lodoss lore, with their legendary actions very much in keeping with the characters. Wort's creation of the Crowns of the Covenant feels very fitting, and I have to admit that, sad as it is, hearing that Parn lived out his days with Deedlit was very touching.
As such, this all feels like a very natural continuation of the original series while not being so reliant on past events that it's only for the hardcore (and let's face it, older) fan of the series. The emphasis is very much on the current state of affairs, with new villains and motivations weaving their own independent tale. It's all helped enormously by the very fine artwork of Atsushi Suzumi who captures the delicate character style of original character designer Hidari perfectly.
The book is full of intriguing character moments. King Diaz of Flaim is an intriguing villain - not without honour or nobility in his ambitions, he's politically very astute. On meeting Princess Bina of Marmo, betrothed to his younger brother, he requests she performs a sword-dance which is beautifully rendered. Declaring her too barbaric for his younger brother, he allows her to be kept as a "plaything" as a way to keep them together unofficially. It secures his dominance but shows his compassion in a way that's classic Mizuno - even the supposedly undercover Prince Zayd can't help but admire him as a King worthy of following. It will be interesting to see if he keeps his loyalty to his country or falls under the charismatic spell of Flaim's new King.
Though only the first book in the series, we get our first taste of the battlefield, and it's a thrilling ride full of strategy, magic and mystery. I was almost sorry to see it end until I realised the final chapter would reunite us with the Forever Maiden of Lodoss.
Without wishing to spoil too much, I can say quite happily that Crown of the Covenant is an excellent start to a brand new chapter for Lodoss, and should be nectar for fans of the series to date. It's chock full of intriguing characters and political maneuvering, I have the next two books pre-ordered already.