SACRIFICES, book three in Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s novels of the Shadow Grail, starts off exactly where book two left off: There are alumni of Oakhurst Academy actively “helping” the students, but students Spirit White and her four friends Loch, Addie, Muirin and Burke think something is desperately wrong. (Please see the reviews for books one and two here.) Somehow, the legend of King Arthur is involved, as the mysterious QUERCUS has hinted via computer message, and Spirit in particular is starting to wonder if many of these alumni are truly evil rather than merely obnoxious.
Making things even tougher, at least some of the other students at Oakhurst have been taken in by the alumni, all of whom work for a large computer company called Breakthrough Systems. (Allusions to the terrible world economy, which apparently even magicians can be affected by, firmly anchor this story to our present-day reality.) But as Spirit finds out early on in SACRIFICES, these alumni are evil . . . worse than that, they’re actually Shadow Knights, reincarnated from the days of King Arthur (which apparently weren’t legend after all, but history misrecorded as myth). And they are bound on the world’s destruction . . . .
Everyone’s paranoid in SACRIFICES to a degree that may shock readers if they haven’t re-read LEGACIES and CONSPIRACIES recently (books one and two of this series, respectively). But there’s a reason for that, which is enumerated very early on (right after the deft “what has gone before” summation in the first few pages to get everyone back up to speed): Students are getting “challenged” by the evil alumni. If they come back at all, they wear the pin of Breakthrough Systems — are, in effect, Shadow Knights in training — while those who decline, presumably, are killed outright.
And long-time teachers at the Academy are not exempt from such things, either, especially if they try to help the remaining students outwait or outlast the Shadow Knights. (This is one reason the book’s title Sacrifices has so much meaning.) The fact that some teachers put their lives in danger — and that some may end up laying their lives down — helps to up the danger and complexity of the problem Spirit and her friends must face.
Finally, Muirin’s still playing a double-game as she’s dating one of the guys from Breakthrough Systems (one of the worst of the Shadow Knights). Can she hold out long enough to get the needed information to Spirit and her other friends? Or will she break under the pressure? (Further reviewer sayeth not.)
Because, you see, the pressure is real. The Shadow Knights wish to annihilate the world, and have the magic to do so. And their only concern is to pick what they believe is the “right moment” — a moment before any of the magical forces of good, which must be somewhere even if Spirit and her friends can’t seem to find them (save QUERCUS, of course, and a few of the teachers at the Academy), catch on to their evil — to blow the world up out of spite.
How can five teens face off against these fully adult, fully evil people? Well, that’s for you to read, but I highly encourage you to do so. This is a really fast read with palpable menace, great historical references and truly heart-rending decisions that made me wish book four was out right now. (I’ll be looking for book four in 2014, to be sure. With avid anticipation, even.)
— reviewed by Barb