Follow-up to Songs of the Earth (2012), the author’s promising fantasy debut.
Cooper adopts multiple narratives as she first generously fills in and recaps the back story before moving forward. Naturally, a MacGuffin, known as the starseed, is involved. Malevolent renegade Guardian Savin plots with a mysterious dark power to destroy the Veil separating the world from the Hidden Kingdom. Gair, the previous book’s protagonist, despite an all but irresistible urge to challenge Savin and still grieving over the loss of his lover and soul mate, has little to do until the latter stages, when he accompanies wise old Guardian Alderan to the desert kingdoms. In the north, Drwyn has ambitions to become Chief of Chiefs of the nomad tribes and reclaim the territories lost to the Empire when they were defeated 1,000 years ago. To ensure Drwyn’s success, Speaker Ytha unleashes her magic to gain the assistance of the imprisoned death-goddess, Maegern. Teia, Drwyn’s unwilling bed warmer, endures rape and beatings at his hands—but she does discover she has magic powers perhaps strong enough to defy Ytha. Emperor Theodegrance, having long abandoned the border fortresses, finds it impossible to believe that the nomads once again pose a threat. And old, ailing Preceptor Ansel of the Eadorian Knights, anticipating terrible battles to come, seeks to broaden the intake of the novices, to the outrage of conservative factions within the church. This vast expansion in the story’s scope comes not without cost to focus and intensity, though Cooper maintains the quality of her characters and writing. Still, readers may find the switch to plotlines that invariably end in irresolute cliffhangers disconcerting and maybe disappointing.
Best advice to fans of Book 1: read this one, wait—and hope.