The first book in this series is a finalist in the SPFBO 2017 and I really loved the first one.
I always struggle with books that aren’t the first in a series because many of the plot points would be spoilers, and people who have already read the books are familiar with the characters and stuff I usually go over for reviews.
To make matters more complicated, this is a 600 page book, it’s dense, there’s a lot to talk about, but so much of it I can’t talk about.
Eh, we’ll see what happens.
This book picks up almost exactly where the last book left off. The plot, like in the last book. is split between character groupings … but with an overarching plot connecting them all together.
We have some recurring characters from last time, Adelko and Horskram are still together, and are still trying to locate the sorcerer who’s trying to bring about the end of the world. Some artefacts have been stolen and it’s believed that if they are all brought back together it could be a world-ending scenario. There are multiple “left handed” magic users who are probably involved in the artefacts theft, Abrexta and Andragorix – both rather foul people.
There’s a newer plot line that focuses on the Northlanders, who have a very Norse/viking like vibe to them. They have a trickster god named “Logi”, they love axes and shields, and are pretty barbaric – lots of raping and pillaging with these guys (first chapter no less). It seems to be something on the rise, and I expect to see more of it in the next book. This added EVEN MORE world building, this series is insane.
If you like seeing things from the villian POV you may want to check this series out. One of the “left handed” magic users, Abrexta, is seen controlling the King and we get to learn a lot about how the magic works through her. We found out in the last book there are several different schools of magic, and Abrexta’s uses imagery. When she wants to control the King she imagines a hand wrapped around a heart, and even when the King is trying to break free of her control he falls right back into line. If she needs an entire audience or room full of people to obey her, she can picture a net being cast over a school of fish and placate and control many people at the same time.
Adelko was my favorite from the last book because he ticks a lot of boxes for my favorite kind of character traits. He’s not particularly violent, he’s curious, he’s easy to relate to, he thinks before he acts, there’s no angst, and he’s a pupil under tutelage – basically all my favorite things. (He continues to be my favorite in this book as well). Horskram tends to info dump in dialogue, but I think because the way it was written I didn’t mind that much, it was fun to learn about the world with Adelko. At first, I was kind of sad Adelko and Horskram weren’t as prominent as they were in the last book, but once I got to know the newer characters and see how everything was coming together I didn’t mind so much.
Adhelina and Hettie are on their own adventure which starts off in a witches cave. Hettie has fallen ill with a fever and logic would tell Adhelina to leave her behind and get a move on – her father is hunting for her and there will be severe consequences if he finds them. She refuses to leave Hettie’s side and stays with her making herb remedies to try and help. The Witch sells them out though, and sends a messenger bird to her father telling him of their location, and so they have to flee quickly. Hettie isn’t totally recovered, and the road ahead is filled with danger.
We get more Vaskarian, who started as a squire in the last book and grows up a bit in this book. Braxus the Knight comes back as well, and I find the character interactions between him and Adelko to be rather endearing. So many characters, I can’t go through them all, but I do feel like we got to know each of them, they all had their own clear motivations and unique persona’s.
The writing style and speech are somewhat old-fashioned with lines like, “before yon winged apparition flew from your cave” or “twas nought but deviltry” – so for people who like more modern speech this may not be your thing, but I think it suited the world so it flowed for me.
The world building continues to be awesome, I understand the complaints from some that it was overwhelming, but to me, this is classic epic fantasy world building. Tons of lore and history to go along with the realms, tons of culture, tons of everything honestly. What I REALLY loved was in this book we get to see a bit more about how the magic works. We get a glimpse of the seven schools of magic in the first book, but in this one we get more explanation.
There’s so much I feel I didn’t say but this is getting really long.
Since reviewing a book that’s not the first in the series throws off my formatting and breakdown I can’t quite score it the exact same way either. So, here’s an abbreviated version
World Building: 15/15
Writing: 7/10 (usually out of 15, but I’m leaving off the Editing portion since this is an ARC)
Personal Enjoyment: 19/25
81/95 ~ 85/100