This is a sequel to Bates’ The Waking Land.
This medieval world is pretty typical with typical political machinations and warring magicians. In this world, the magic seems to originate with the land, a sort of “natural” magic with implications that the users need to stay in balance with the land. In the past there was a king with no magical abilities who saw an opportunity to destroy everyone with such ability leaving no one to challenge him. With magics outlawed, anyone born with it was forced to hide it. In the first book, we met a young woman, Elanna, with an ability to interact directly with nature: growing things, rocks, water and who-knows-what-else. It was a coming-of-age story while she figured out what she could do and wrestled with whether she should. We also met her step-sister, the girl raised in her family while Elanna was hostage to her father’s good behavior. The step-sister becomes her Queen. And, in that story, we also met a young man, Jahan, a noble’s son of the very empire that initially destroyed all magic wielders; and he has a secret ability, as well.
This story is told from the viewpoint of that young man, Jahan. Jahan and Elanna fell in love in the first story and are doing their best to unite Elanna’s people and support their new Queen, Sophy. But the witch hunters from Paladis, Jahan’s homeland, are hunting them; and while Jahan and his brothers are immune, no other sorcerer is, including Elanna. In order to secure peace, and perhaps find one of his missing brothers, Jahan leaves for Paladis to negotiate with the Emperor. Along the way, he stops at his childhood home to see if he might secure his youngest brother, Lathiel, who still lives with their father and the witch who damaged them so badly as children. He almost can’t do it; his innate fear of the witch, Madiya, is over-whelming; but for his brother, he’ll try. Miraculously, the witch is not at home and while his father doesn’t seem particularly interested in stopping him from taking Lathiel, Lathiel doesn’t want to leave strangely. Jahan is captured by witch hunters and taken to the dreaded prison for sorcerers where he fully expects that what’s left of his mind will be taken. But it’s a lesser fear than meeting Madiya again the witch who destroyed his mother’s memories, his two brothers and himself. She stole memories that eventually destroyed his mother and haunts Jahan.
Eventually, he escapes and ends up in court where he continues to try diplomacy with the Emperor. But instead he falls into a revolutionary clique with no less than the Empress herself. The clique is made up of renegade witches and sorcerers who practice their art in secrecy. Jahan finds himself a leader of a bunch of ill-trained witches who are determined to go up against the Emperor all by themselves. Jahan has to find a way to train them sufficiently, and to work as a team, if they are to have any chance to survive. But the fallen temples of the old witchcraft still have secrets to give up; Jahan just has to figure out how to tap into them…and survive the experience.
It was fun. Bates has an interesting voice and the plot was good. While first person POV doesn’t give the reader a lot of character development, Bates makes it work effectively. It wasn’t terribly original but the ride was fun. The third book of the trilogy will be told from the POV of Queen Sophy, Elanna’s step-sister.~~ Catherine Book
For other titles by Callie Bates click here