Thoroughly enjoyable, though long in parts. It was nice to return to the
familiarity of these characters, who all have a lot of depth. I really
liked the expansion of King Zachary and Captain Mapstone’s characters. I
wasn’t sure, at first, about the plotline of the elemental, but it grew
on me, and had two great resolutions, the first with Mapstone, the other
at the end of the book. The action was a lot of fun, the torture
gruesome, and the travel always had something interesting to note. As
always, the descriptions echo the history of this world, adding life to
the story without being dry. The day-to-day activity in the first part
of the book was appreciated, but a bit lengthy, and Karigan’s recovery
was long and a little too repetitive, the only two parts of the book
that stretched on for me.
Compared to the previous book, this one was such a huge relief, sending
us back into the magical world, which is so much less frustrating, and
doesn’t have the strange love story. However, there are some very slow
moments, which probably have realistic wait times, but which were a
little more difficult to get through.
The first section, where
Karigan is recovering, but wants to wallow in depression due to losing
Cade in her travel back through time, was a very nice day-in-the-life
segment, where we see the various duties of Karigan and other people,
including Captain Mapstone, King Zachary, Queen Estora (very pregnant),
and Karigan’s father. A new character is introduced here, a young woman
who tends the fireplaces in the castle, an Ash girl who encounters
Karigan in the Rider wing, is saved by her when the ice creatures
attack, gets promoted to the Queen’s chamber, helps defeat the Aureas
Slee -twice, and eventually gets promoted into a magicless Rider. It’s
nice to see the change in attitudes among Mapstone, as they need more
messengers than ever, and everyday people are willing to help.
Karigan’s aunts were hilarious in this section, both pestering her for
information, going through her stuff, getting blasted by Karigan for
doing so, which they’d never thought they’d hear in their lives, and
finally getting rescued by the Riders from the ice creatures. It was a
nice change of pace from the action-adventure of most other books in the
series, and what follows in this book.
Additionally, Karigan is
elevated to swordmaster, and made an honorary Weapon, for all she’s done
in the King’s service. I agree with Karigan’s assessment of the ritual,
and how angry she was. Dragging her out in the middle of the night under
threat of death, no less, and attacking her in a situation where she
could have been killed seems reckless. How many people haven’t passed
the ritual -and did they die because of that failure?
creatures have attacked because Grandmother, of Second Empire, has used
her magic to summon the elemental in an effort to destabilize Saccoridia.
She leaves thinking the magic has failed, but in reality, the Aureas
slee appears, angry at her for forcing it to her will, and heads to the
castle, where its ice creatures attack everyone. In the ensuing chaos,
Immerez, a Second Empire spy who had been locked up for several books,
escapes and makes his way back to Grandmother. Karigan and the Ash girl
help to protect the Queen from the Aureas slee, which desires the
company of the beautiful woman and her unborn twins. Eventually, it
takes the place of Zachary, sending the King to its northern cave. The
time with Estora and the false Zachary was very impressive, as everybody
knows something has changed with the king but it’s not until Captain
Mapstone, with her ability to detect surface thoughts, comes to visit
that he is uncovered as a fraud. Then, it’s Ash who rescues the Queen.
I really enjoyed the sections with Ash and how she acts, instead of
Estora, for her part, manages to rule the kingdom very well in
Zachary's stead, arranging diplomatic ties with Rhovanny and even uncovering a
spy in their midst. I wonder how much of the military strategy she left
to the generals, and how involved she became. Before succumbing to
bedrest, she elevates Captain Mapstone to Colonel.
In the cave
of the Aureas slee, Zachary encounters two other hostages, an Eletian
and a woman who was brought there as a child. It’s a long captivity, but
probably realistic. He tries to escape, searching for a hole to the
outside world, but the other woman keeps hounding him to be his family,
having grown up completely alone. Eventually, a gryphon appears and
wakes the stone gryphon in the cave, and the two fight the slee,
breaking apart the cave. Zachary is taken with them and is dropped from
a significant height, where he is found by groundmites and given over to
Grandmother. Fortunately, he’s lost so much weight, and has an overgrown
beard, that he is almost unrecognizable. He’s put to work clearing rocks
from an underground cavern of an old Saccoridian Keep.
journey north with Karigan, Estral and Enver the Eletian, on a mission
to find the mysterious p’hedrose, is almost pure character work, and
delves into the relationship between the two women, who are still best
friends, as well as the growing obsession Enver starts to have toward
Karigan, which won’t peak until the last chapters. In essence, he starts
taking care of her when she is emotionally injured, watching over her
mirror eye, her lungs as she inhales the magic smoke, her torn-up back
after she is tortured, teaches her to dismiss the ghosts (and put them
to rest), and generally comes closer to her than anybody.
For Estral goes off in search of her father alone, unwilling to wait
for Karigan’s lungs to clear, and immediately gets captured. Karigan
needs to go after her, and also gets captured. It’s here that she sees
Zachary and Estora’s father Lord Fiori, and she’s tortured by Nyssa
until essentially all of the skin on her back is whipped off, and more.
The torture was obviously intended to shock, and it was very
uncomfortable to read. It didn’t last long, but was enough to prove the
point, and to put Karigan out of commission. Zachary goes crazy seeing
Karigan captured, and he is revealed as the King of Saccoridia, and is
as such sent for torture himself, as well as a residual spell from
Grandmother’s rope knots. Both Karigan and Zachary are rescued, in
order, but it takes a long time for them to recover, especially Karigan,
who was defeated not just physically, but mentally, also.
ghost of Nyssa invades her mind, pulling her farther toward depression,
and slowing the healing of her body. This was the longest part of the
book, maybe not in pages, but definitely it was slowest. Eventually,
through the use of her horse, Zachary, the ghost of the
Rider who first wore her brooch, and the medicine of both Enver and the
master healer who betrayed Zachary a couple of books ago and was exiled
to the north, Karigan recovers enough to start walking around the camp.
The climax of the book has to do with ancient magic that
Grandmother discovered in the Keep in the Lone Forest, long abandoned by
the Saccoridians, and from the war of the gods against whatever
creatures were there before them. She uses her magic to release the seal
to the underworld, hoping to control it. The creatures that are released
are supposed to be the fiercest ever seen in the land, but they are
barely better fighters than Zachary’s river unit. They have many
advantages, like the ability to move as shadow and poison claws, but
other than that, they are just normal evil creatures. I guess with some
nourishment, they could become worse. The underworld god Westrion takes
the still-injured Karigan as his avatar to replace the seal to the
chamber, but I don’t really understand why. She pointed her sword at the
seal to strengthen its magic, but why did he need her to do this? Is his
horse-form not good enough to focus the magic?
It's the Aureas
Slee that kills grandmother, but the slee is killed by the Elitian who
was trapped in its cave for a thousand years. She takes its heart and
becomes the elemental of ice instead, to maintain the balance.
enjoyed the appearance of the gryffons quite a lot. From the first
appearance at the wall in the form of a cat, to the help it gave Karigan
on her journey, to the rescue of Zachary from the slee and finally to
being a primary participant in Karigan’s rescue from Nyssa, they were
always described in a fun way. They were playful, like kittens,
especially with the evil people or creatures they encountered.
number of smaller plot points from previous novels were continued here,
including the loss of Estral’s voice. In this book, however, she’s given
a gift from the Elitians, a new temporary voice. This is of course so
that she can participate in Karigan’s journey, but it also gives her a
chance to communicate and learn how precious her real voice is. Lala was
sent to the coast to learn magic before Zachary’s forces attacked the
Lone Forest, so even if grandmother died, Lala still has Estral’s voice
out in the world.
The final plot point is to bring the p’hedrose
into the fight against Mornhaven the Black, and Karigan and Enver do
this, Enver having scouted the lands when Karigan was recovering from
her several injuries, behind the scenes. With her fading ability, they enter into the
hidden valley, and are nearly killed for it. But Karigan’s mirror eye
shows them a vision of the possible future, which shows them they can’t
escape what could come, with their leader stuffed in a museum.
Even with all the adventure and action, war and torture, this is a love
story. Karigan and Zachary have loved each other since the very
beginning, but due to his status as King, not to mention his marriage to
Estora, they cannot pursue it. However, in this book, they become very
close, though they must separate again at the end. Zachary watches over
Karigan, she watches over him when he’s poisoned from the claws of the
underworld monsters, and when she’s released from the avatar of Westrion,
they kiss like they were in private. With the shakeup of the Green
Riders, giving Karigan the position of Chief Rider, which means she’ll
spend more time at the castle, this could lead to big problems -and
interesting stories. We’ll see.
These books are real character
dramas, and the characters are very well developed. Details from the
previous books feature in future installments, so it’s nice to see the
way the world builds upon itself, too. Although the book is long, it is
never tedious. It’s familiar, and enjoyable all throughout.