In the first installment of Ryan’s new fantasy series—essentially a continuation of Vaelin Al Sorna’s story from the Raven’s Shadow trilogy—the legendary warrior, attempting to live a quiet life in the Northern Reaches of the Unified Realm, is lured across the ocean to the kingdoms of the Far West to save a lost love.
Sherin is a healer of great renown whom Vaelin once loved. He sent her to the Far West to keep her safe years earlier, but when he receives word that the tribes of the Iron Steppe have unified under a man named the Darkblade—who considers himself a god—and that Sherin is at the epicenter of an imminent war, he sets off on a quest to find and save her. Accompanying Vaelin are a misfit group of adventurers—including Nortah Al Sendahl, a disgraced nobleman and warrior struggling with his inner demons; Alum Vi Moreska, an immigrant Vaelin freed from slavery; and Ellese, Vaelin’s niece and heir to the Fiefdom of Cumbrael, who is found as a stowaway long after the ship has set sail. Once the group reach the Far West, they discover that Sherin—known as the Grace of Heaven to the westerners—has disappeared with the Jade Princess, an ageless woman who lives in a remote temple above the clouds and is mythically powerful. Though the book is characterized by breakneck pacing, deeply developed characters, and impressively intricate plotlines, it’s Ryan’s (Many Are the Dead, 2018, etc.) subtle focus on vivid worldbuilding (particularly on varied sensory descriptions) that makes this such an immersive read. Although the conclusion is little more than a respite, the nonstop action, richly described setting, and cast of intriguing characters more than make up for it.
Readers who enjoy their fantasy fast and furious will find Ryan’s latest to be an immensely satisfying, top-notch adventure fantasy.