The Slave Boy by Murray Lee Eiland Jr.

More swashbuckling adventure awaits readers of this excellent sixth installment of the Orfeo Saga. In this thrilling tale, Daryush’s young friend Cyrus seeks excitement in the worst way — and that’s exactly what he finds.

Cyrus drags former comrade-in-arms Balik along with him as he travels to the lands governed by King Elazar. Then, through an unhappy encounter with the King’s ill-tempered wife, who is trying to escape, the two adventure-seekers wind up in chains.

But nothing holds the two intrepid travelers down for long. In a memorable fight of one against eight, Cyrus dispatches the heavily armed guards and frees not only his friend Balik, but all eighteen other slaves as well. They quickly melt into the surrounding hills.

Meanwhile, a particularly odious character named Asok, a minor prince in those parts, has his heart set on marrying a beautiful but willful young woman named Sharmilla. Determined to escape her fate, however, she dons a disguise and escapes, much to the wrath of her would-be suitor.

Cyrus and his cadre of ragtag warriors join up with a local army, where he rises quickly to command a troop of one hundred men. For his valiant actions, he is accorded the dubious honor of escorting the general’s sister through brigand-infested hills to her home in Talo Duro — many dangerous days’ away.

One night Cyrus is scouting near the camp for lurking attackers when he feels an arrow whiz by his ear. It’s a nearly fatal miss — thwarted at the last second by a dedicated slave boy standing behind Cyrus. The boy, in tears at the near-loss of his new master, is awarded a privileged place in Cyrus’ retinue.

There’s more than meets the eye here as Cyrus rushes back to camp to ready for an imminent attack. It’s high treachery that threatens to overwhelm the 20-man escort, and Cyrus lays his strategy carefully.

This marvelous book moves quickly from one precarious — yet unpredictable — situation to another. Cyrus and Balik get more than they bargained for as the adventures abound, and they finally see the lovely Arya — the general’s wife — safely to her home.

Later, through a plot twist so unexpected it will amaze you, Cyrus ascends to a position of high leadership in a city under siege. His exploits in defending the beleaguered citizenry and — more importantly — their beautiful queen, are the stuff of legends.

The Orfeo saga is a truly epic collection of tales brought vividly to life by gifted storyteller Murray Lee Eiland, Jr. and this singular narrative — while not really connected with Orfeo himself — nevertheless acquits itself admirably and takes a proud position of prominence in the popular canon.

Five-plus stars to The Slave Boy and its ingenious author.

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