New author James Islington brings back epic doorstop fantasy with The Shadow of What Was Lost. On the surface this is another fantasy about a young man discovering his strengths as he does a lot of walking around while trying to save his world. But with everyone around him keeping secrets the group dynamic is always shifting as the characters learn more about each other and themselves.
The events at the end of the Daylight War were destined to have a ripple effect, especially in Krasia, and this entire book is dedicated to that purpose. This means that this book is actually more focused on the daylight war than the last one, despite the respective titles. For many readers this is a disappointing turn of events as it does put the story arc regarding the Demon War mostly to the side but the significant events that occur with many of the main characters still makes for good story telling. The ending of the last book was a cliff hanger so don't proceed with reading the rest of this review unless you have already finished that one...
Sticking to his successful formula from book two, Peter V. Brett once again elevates some of his existing characters to PoV status right off the bat. This time around it is Inevera and Abban that get the upgrade and the reader experiences some of the key events, both new and old, from their perspectives. When this happened in book two, The Desert Spear, I was slow to embrace the choice but now I have really come to appreciate the manner in which this many layered story is being constructed. Elevating such characters allows for additional perspectives and insights to be offered up on pivotal events and the characters all turn out to be very engaging. Understanding the histories and motives of all of these individuals adds even more anticipation to the inevitable confrontation that must take place between Arlen and Jardir - one that will likely decide the ultimate fate of mankind in the Demon War.
As the book's title implies, book two of the Demon Cycle series focuses a bit more on the people that live in the desert city of Fort Krasia, also known as The Desert Spear. These battle hardened warriors have fought against the demons for hundreds of years and have created a society, and a religion, completely around that endeavor. Ahmann Jardir, the Krasian who we know well from his interactions with Arlen in the first book, is now elevated into a PoV character and his back story is explained in great detail. Context is given to his rapid rise to power among his people as well as the extreme actions that he took in book one where Arlen was concerned.
This fictional world created by Alexey Pehov is full of standard fantasy fare but it also has some interesting quirks mixed in along the way that give it some uniqueness. However, this being the first work of Pehov's to be translated from his native Russian into English you can tell that some of the charm has been lost in the translation. It all starts with the King making Shadow Harold (a thief) an offer he can't refuse - either Harold goes into an ancient tomb and retrieves a powerful artifact needed to save the kingdom or he gets thrown in prison for the rest of his life. Harold, being the practical sort, agrees to go on the quest because it at least offers him a small chance of survival, unlike the prison. A standard fantasy party of adventurers is put together and the quest begins...
The Warded Man has all the components that make it a great first book of a Fantasy series. There is a focus on character building, multiple interesting magic systems exist, and the world itself faces a threat that immediately grabs your attention. Things are bleak in this world ruled by fear as every night when the sun falls demons rise from the core to prey upon any human foolish enough to be caught outside of their protective wards. The reader is slowly exposed to this ravaged world through the progression of three different story lines, each one detailing the events that shape the lives of one of the main characters. All of the characters start young and naive until the demons force them to each make a fateful decision that will shape the entirety of their remaining existence.
The Prince must slay a dragon to win the hand of the Narcheska in marriage which will bring together two kingdoms that were recently at war. That is pretty cliché for a fantasy book but Robin Hobb finds a way to rise above the ordinary and shows how it should be done. Two factions have formed as the dragon-slaying quest builds to a conclusion and many members of the expedition now openly oppose the Prince's goal to slay Icefyre. Many additional mysteries remain as well but none more important than the true motivation behind the Narcheska's original challenge to Prince Dutiful. All of this keeps the reader engaged and eagerly awaiting the outcome which surprisingly comes well before the end of the book leaving plenty of time to explore the consequences of everyone's actions.
There are so many fantasy books available these days that it is quite difficult for an author to be unique and tell a tale that hasn't been told in some form already. There are also cases where an author doesn't even try to be unique and thus we have The Innkeeper's Son. This book is packed full of standard fantasy clichés and it comes with a big dose of "deus ex machina" to make matters worse. The characters themselves are pretty typical and when you combine them with a tired premise it all adds up to an experience that has very little unique about it.
Book two of the Tawny Man series finally ties the events happening in the Six Duchies to those that occurred in the earlier Liveship Traders series. Now that Prince Dutiful has been rescued from the Piebalds he must face the fact that his life is not his own. He has been promised in marriage to the Narcheska Elliania of the Out Islands in the hope that such a marriage might heal the wounds between their kingdoms after the recent war. The two of them do not hit it off when they finally meet and neither of them wants to follow through on the arrangement. This angst leads to Dutiful carelessly offending the Narcheska and in return she publicly challenges him to prove he is worthy of her. She demands that Dutiful slay the Dragon Icefyre that legends say sleeps beneath the ice back in her lands. Before anyone can stop Dutiful he agrees to the challenge to show that he is worthy of this bride that he doesn't even want. Kids.
The Wit is both a blessing and a curse. This low magic enables a human to form such a close bond of kinship with an animal that the two share thoughts and even start to take on each other's personalities. Such an enriched life does come at a price though as the lifespan of most beasts is much shorter than that of their human companion and the death of the animal is a devastating loss. This magic becomes the focus of Robin Hobb's Tawny Man series as her story telling returns to the Six Duchies where it all started. Fifteen years have passed since the end of the Farseer Trilogy and it is time to catch up with our old friends Fitz and the Fool.