Geis: A Matter of Life and Death by Alexis Deacon
Geis, pronounced gesh, is a Gaelic word for a taboo or curse. When a geis is placed upon you, it is like a spell that cannot be broken and certain rules must be obeyed. You might be prohibited from calling upon the aid of wolves, for example, or from breaking into someone's kitchen. If you ignore or break a geis, the consequences are dire.After providing this handy definition at the beginning of this book, the story begins with the summoning of fifty people to the deathbed of the great chief Matakra. She has no heir and her will stipulates that there will be a contest to determine the next great chief. Some rich and powerful people from the land have signed up, but some others are also brought, seemingly against their will. They debate about choosing among themselves when the spirit of Niope, a sorceress, rises from the body of Matakra and starts the first test in the contest. All fifty are magically thrown from the room to distant corners of the land and must return to the castle before the light of dawn touches the castle's front doors.
But a geis is always broken.
As soon as it is spoken or written, your fate is set.
The people face various traps and challenges (some don't know the kingdom well enough to find their way back) as they try to return. A few decide it's not worth the bother. One, a witch, recognizes that Niope uses death magic and fears what will happen. A young girl is also among the candidates. She's the daughter of the Kite Lord and is able to fly back to the castle quickly. She and Nemas, a courtier, find out from Niope that only one contestant will survive and be ruler. All the others will die. They are forbidden from telling the others because this is a geis. A bit of mayhem ensues.
The book has a very intriguing set up and the first test is resolved by the end, but this is far from the story's end. I was hoping for more story. A lot of characters are introduced but not all developed. It's going to be hard to remember the storyline by the time the next volume comes out, but it is a quick read so it would be easy to reread. The art is a bit simple with a muted color palate, which actually helps the story move quickly and gives it a feeling of ancientness and otherness. I am interested in more and hope the next volume comes out soon!