Friday, September 18, 2015

Secrets of Neverak

Henry Vestin always believed that, despite being a carpenter with no training in swordplay or survival, he could lead Isabelle and his friends to safety. He thought he could defy an emperor and protect Isabelle from harm. He was certain that love and friendship would help them survive.
He was wrong.
The second volume in the Tale of Light and Shadow series follows Henry and his friends after the disastrous battle at the Iron Pass. Horrors await the band of travelers in strange new lands. Crippled and broken, Henry must rely on his friends more than ever. New allies and foes find them at every turn, but which are friendly and which are deadly? Isabelle, now a slave in Neverak, finds herself surrounded by enemies, uncertain about the fate of her friends, and relying on only herself to survive. The Emperor moves forward with his plans of conquest, spurred on by the Seer’s dark prophecy, but he has not forgotten those who defied him.
Return to the world of Atolas, where swords and daggers extend life or end it, where feuds and friendships influence kingdoms and courtships, and where magic is feared by all but a few.

My Review:

Five out of five stars

The second book in Jacob Gowans high-fantasy series delivers even more heart-pounding adventures and life altering revelations than the first book. A Tale of Light and Shadow series presents a world where the price of magic is high, and the quest for justice and love is fraught with dangers.
Secrets of Neverak picks up right after the stunning ending of A Tale of Light and Shadow. Henry Vestin and his friends are left broken after their defeat and the loss of Isabelle, Henry’s fiancĂ©. Now with a useless arm and a broken spirit, Henry wonders how he can ever be trusted to save the woman he loves from becoming the Emperor’s latest concubine. Meanwhile, wars and rebellions are brewing throughout the world of Atolas. The friends must face their inner demons and stand united if they are to succeed in their quest to save their friends. Loyalties are fragile when love turns bitter, and insecurities and vices win.

I loved this book. The first one, like many fantasy series, started out a bit slow but when it picked up, I was hooked. The world’s politics, magic system, and cultures were woven together seamlessly to create something I was able to easily lose myself in. While the first book may have dragged at the beginning, this one certainly didn’t. It opened with Henry recovering from the wounds he received in the battle at the end of the last book, and the friends entering the Iron Pass—a forest where strange voices whispered your darkest secrets and drove you mad. Such an intense moment! I loved the crazy and dangerous situations the characters faced and often held my breath wondering how they would survive yet again.

Jacob Gowans did a fantastic job creating a diverse cast of travelers with great combinations of weaknesses and strengths. There are multiple narrators so I got a great understanding for all the characters and their pasts. I found I cared about each of them, though there were a couple of bad guys I wanted to know more about, like the creepy Seer. Even the Emperor has some qualities that make him more human. I’ve struggled to find book where I cared about the character and found the plot gripping. This book delivered on both accounts.

I only had one problem with the book, it ended on another cliff-hanger! When does the next book come out? The group made some difficult decisions at the end. We’ll have to see if they work out in the next book. Can’t wait!

This is a young adult fantasy so it is a little faster read than some fantasy books I’ve read. (Brandon Sanderson’s books, anyone?) The content, despite one of the character cloistered with concubines was very clean. No language or sex, and the battles were epic without gruesome details. I felt comfortable reading this to my kids, and it addressed some great ideas about believing in oneself and forgiveness.


This book is available for purchase at Amazon or Deseret Book

Source: Book from publisher in exchange for honest review

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