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A Blight of Blackwings
Book 2 of The Seven Kennings
by Kevin Hearne
Del Rey, $28.99, 560pp
Published: February 2020

The author of the popular Iron Druid series is back with a brand-new epic fantasy series.  This one has some familiar tropes:  princes, bards, shapeshifters, people with special powers, and giants.  But the presentation is what makes this story special.  This is the second in the series.

This world has special powers for certain people willing to risk their lives.  And the powers seem to be regional; in that the “magical” place each supplicant must go to for a particular power is a fixed location.  So the particular powers ‘belong’ to a specific nation.  At the beginning of the story, only five kennings or powers are known.  One is the power of healing and shaping stone, the power to control fire, one to control water, the ability to control plant growth, and the one that allows bards to have control over their voice and their appearance; able to take on the appearance of another in order to tell a tale in their voice. In the first book, a sixth kenning was discovered accidently:  the ability to call and control any animal. This new kenning is proving to be very disruptive to the powers-that-be who see this new ability as a threat to established government…as the ones who have the new ability are the lowest-of-the-low, and determined to bring revolution to all the people.

The world is still reeling from the Bone Giants war; villages are still destroyed by marauding bands.  And, still, no one knows why the Giants invaded.

The story is presented as a series of tales from the bard, Fintan.  Where and how he acquires the tales, from all corners of the world, continues to amaze and confound everyone.  Dervan, the historian, is still recording all the tales but he is also still spying for his king, much to his own dismay.  The king managed to capture a Bone Giant and with Dervan’s insight, they are finally communicating in the hopes of understanding the Giants and their purpose.  That will prove much harder than anyone imagined.

The story bounds all over the world with the experiences and insights of many different characters; all of whom contribute a small portion of the larger story.  It is a most interesting and captivating way of presenting a story.  It’s actually a fairly simple plot:  why are the Bone Giants invading and how can they be stopped?  It’s supplemented by the side story of just what the seventh kenning of the title can be and where it might be. 

This is the most satisfying and fascinating book I’ve read this year.  I’m loving the journey.  The characters are, by intent, a bit shallow due to the method of presentation.  The plot and world building are everything.  But that doesn’t mean the characters are not substantial; it just means that with the exception of Dervan, we don’t get inside their heads.  I continue to be impressed with Kevin Hearne; so glad to know he isn’t a one-trick pony.  ~~  Catherine Book

For other titles by Kevin Hearne click here

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