In this sequel to The Valley Chronicles (2017), Selbrede’s heroes risk a prophesized death in order to procure a weapon that can end all war.
Several months have passed since teens John and Violet Jenson saved the magical realm of the Valley. Violet hopes to put their previous traumatic adventures behind them; John, however, has been using runes, in a manner taught to him by Princess Ruby, to teleport back and forth to the kingdom of talking animals and the vanquished Soldiers of Sorrow. He convinces his sister to return—along with her dog, Hodgey, who can now talk—for a meeting with the Inner Council to decide how best to rule the Valley. The conference introduces the siblings to the smarmy Councilman Hewyd, who believes that Princesses Ruby and Sapphire need guidance. John, who’s now able to detect the Soldiers’ magic, thinks that Hewyd may be possessed. Suddenly, the meeting is interrupted by a battered and bloody Trent, an ally believed lost during the war against the Soldiers. Fearing a resurgence of hostilities, Ruby sends John and a select band of heroes after an artifact capable of bringing the war to a close; whatever the object is, it’s kept beyond the Mountains of Mystery. For this second volume in his series, Selbrede doubles down on the quirkiness and fantasy tropes, which include an apocalyptic prophecy that the world will end if anyone from the Valley passes the Mountains. Pushing against the fourth wall, Violet thinks, “that was exactly what our fantasy adventure needed—a vague and unhelpful set of deadlines and rules.” Chapters told from Hodgey’s viewpoint are intriguing, as well, particularly when the other animals see him as one their own. Frequently, however, characters who aren’t from Earth often use the colloquial, sarcastic language of the protagonists; for instance, clever Princess Sapphire says things such as “I don't think brute force is going to cut it.” Luckily, Selbrede’s gifted plotting still takes things in numerous, satisfying directions. A devastating epilogue will make the next volume a must for fans.
An epic fantasy notable for its deceptions, elaborate traps, and worldbuilding.