Hey, all, it’s Alexa! My last post was about the awesome sequel to In the Shadow of the Dragon King, and today, having finally finished, I get to review the awesome sequel to In the Shadow of the Dragon King. Hold on tight, guys, because this book is incredible.
David and Charlotte paid their dues. They traveled to another realm, battled the Dragon King, recovered the all important magic key to the mage tunnels, and found the heir to the throne of Hirth, as promised. Now it’s time to go home. There’s just one problem: the powerful crystals needed to activate the tunnels have been stolen…and David’s parents have mysteriously disappeared along with them. Guess who’s not going home to Havendale anytime soon.
Eric Hamden, squire extraordinaire, survived the poisonous knick of a shadowmorth’s blade, rescued the king of Hirth from the bowels of the dragon’s lair, and confronted a heartbreaking betrayal that nearly got him killed. Still reeling from the news, Eric sets his sights on a daring rescue only to wind up in a prison of his own with David and Charlotte at his side. But rescues come in strange ways, and before they know it, the three end up in David’s hometown of Havendale…and Eric gets a quick schooling in Modern Life 101. He’d rather fight a dragon.
With secrets, lies and betrayals meeting them at every turn, David, Charlotte and Eric soon discover that Havendale isn’t the sanctuary they’d hoped for. Even their best-laid plans can’t prepare them for the danger that stalks them. This time, no amount of magic or prayers can save them. War has been declared, and in the final battle, someone must make the ultimate sacrifice. Let the battle begin.
Honestly, it’s hard to even know what to say about the plot because it was just so epic. There was always something going on, or recovery from something that had just happened, or trying to prepare for whatever the next crazy thing might be; it was constant. The twists and turns were like nothing I’ve ever seen. For most of them, I didn’t even have an inkling of a guess, they just slapped me out of nowhere. Part of this is because of the characters: the reader follows the kids of the story and they’re constantly kept in the dark about, well, everything; so with them, I spent a lot of the book not really knowing what was going on. But at the same time, I always wanted to. The premise gripped my heart, wouldn’t let go, took me on this wild ride, and then screeched to a halt at a cliffhanger rivaled only by Mark of Athena.
I’m telling you, this book is incredible.
A final note before moving on, this about the ending battle scene: it’s epic… but simultaneously terrifying, which seems fair for kids hurled into this experience without any former affiliation with war. It’s not surprising that it hits David, Charlotte, and Eric the way it does, and it shows you a completely new perspective on the whole medieval fighting thing. Like, it’s exciting, perfectly described, you feel every moment, glued to the page as you experience each second in flash-motion with the characters. But it’s equally horrifying: you’re rooting for the good guys, but you still have to face up to the awfulness of the battle all around them. It’s violent, it’s bloody, and it hurts. It’s equal parts epic and terrible, balancing both emotions with finesse and putting the whole idea into perspective: the terrors and the horrors the heroes have to go through for the good to win out in the end. I don’t know if I’d want every fantasy written like this (some just have a more fun feeling, and that’s the way they should be), but this one went for a deeper, more realistic style and perspective, and it accomplishes it with skill and perfection.
Plot: 5 stars out of 5.
Like I said in my other post, these characters are the definition of complex. All of them have so much backstory and motivation and secrets and layers. Yet at the center of it, they all care about each other, staying alive, and to some extent, saving the worlds. It’s an amazing and original collection of characters, and even though I didn’t always agree with them, I was intrigued by them and I enjoyed living vicariously through them.
Beyond that, it’s hard to know what to say about anyone except the kids because of all the secrets the adults keep. David, Charlotte, and Eric are in all kinds of deadly danger, and there are details they need to know, yet, in the name of education and safety, the adults consistently either lie to them or withhold important information, and the kids are expected to just go along with it. That presents a lot of conflict and it’s a really interesting question the book explores; it doesn’t really take either side, but the characters keep running up against it and that forces you as the reader to consider it. Honestly, for me, I know the adults are doing what they think is right, but I’m not sure it is right, and I don’t think I will be sure until the next book comes out and I see how it all goes down. Hopefully, it goes well for everyone, cuz right now it’s not looking too good.
BUT I’VE SAID TOO MUCH.
Until then, let us talk about the KIDS:
They have grown up SO MUCH, yet the effects of the last book are still super clear. They’re—understandably—fed up, and that comes out OFTEN; there is much emotions and much anger-induced sass and more than a few dramatic exits. But they also do their best to deal with these things, to stop making the same mistakes, to have the conversations that need having, to, even with the pain and the grief and the probable PTSD, band together and move forward. They’re dealing with a million emotional repercussions, but they still try to handle it and, overall, they don’t let it stop them from their mission. It’s a fair mix of DRAMA and EMOTIONS with dealing and getting the darn job done. Could they handle it better? Enh, probably. But I get where they are and they learn a lot, and that’s basically the best thing to me. I love seeing the three of them grow up together and unite, and I look forward to seeing more as the series unfolds.
Characters: 5 stars out of 5
The writing is the perfect kind of dark, riveting descriptive, yet it’s not overly graphic. I noticed this especially in the battle scenes: like, you know what happened, it’s very clear and very intense, but… well, nobody’s insides are described either, I’ll put it that way. The horrors of the war and the psychological effects, both as they’re happening and after they’ve occurred, are handled with tact: they’re not glossed over but they’re not gruesome either.
As for the setting, that was the only thing in this section that I had a slight issue with. I understand it enough to follow the story—but also to know that there’s a lot I don’t know. And I get why: like I said, the reader follows the kids and they’re in the dark for a lot of it, so the reader’s in the dark for a lot of it too. But still, the world of Fallhollow seems so deep and rich and I’d love to get to explore it, but we’re only told the bare minimum about the magic and the creatures and everything else. I’m not confused, perse, but I’d enjoy understanding it further and seeing the nuances explained more than they have been in the last two books.
Writing Style/Setting: 4 stars out of 5.
And so, we come in at just over 4 stars out of 5. This is truly an epic and amazing story; it’s classic fantasy: kids from the real world dunked into a new one, with sword fights and dragons and epic medievalness, but all of its handled with a style and a twist I have never seen before. If you’d like to try it out for yourself, you can pick up your copy on Amazon for $14.29.
So, read any dragon books lately? Or fantasies that really make you think? Can’t wait to hear from you all, and I’ll see you in the comment section!
~ Love, Alexa ❤
Note: I voluntarily and honestly reviewed a free ecopy of this book.
Content: lots of language; violence.