WHISPERS OF SHADOW AND FLAME by L. Penelope
WHISPERS OF SHADOW & FLAME is a second installment in the Earthsinger Chronicles. This is a world filled with magic, primarily Earthsong, which is a natural magical ability connected to life, allowing people to have some level of healing and other power. There is also blood magic, which is unnatural and Nethersong, the magical ability connected to death.
The “True Father” rules the land of the Lagrimar and takes Earthsong from his citizens in a mandatory tribute. The Keepers who live in Elsira are working against him, and the Shadowfox is the most famous among them with his/her mastery for Earthsong. When intel reaches the True Father about where the Shadowfox will be, he has his Cantor send Kyara, known as the Poison Flame, to capture him and bring him back alive. Kyara has an ability over Nethersong that is used to kill at the True Father’s whim. She is controlled by a powerful blood spell that forces her to follow orders.
As Kyara seeks out the Shadowfox, she must infiltrate the Keepers to learn which is the Shadowfox, and in the process, she gets closer to Darvyn and learns more about them/him. At the same time, we also follow a slave/servant, Zeli, who had given tribute in the past and works in the house of one of the nobility under the True Father’s reign. There is also a Sleeping Queen who seems to be connected to the Elsira. The Keepers are trying to save everyone from the True Father and return the Sleeping Queen to her throne. I think. Note: the book, like most fantasies, contains subjects of abuse, torture, kidnapping, and other unsavory elements.
This book is part of an epic fantasy series. Though I have not read others in this series, if they are as strong in world and character building, I will probably take a look at some time. Though I would assume that some of the things I didn’t understand, I would if I’d read the first book before this one. As it is with all books in series.
Things I liked: the characters are well-developed and realistic with problems and strengths. The world-building is very well done and believable. I find the combination of medieval-like setting mixed with gas-powered vehicles, radios, and other “modern” conveniences interesting—if a little surprising in the beginning. It was unexpected and almost off-putting, but added a different and unique element to the story.
Things I didn’t like: the occasional changeover to what seemed a minor character at first that also changes to third person/present tense POV. It was disconcerting. Also, the story ends with a cliffhanger – which I do *not* like. Yes, some threads came to an end, but a huge one was left dangling which means you *have* to buy the next book to find out what happens. A marketing ploy, but I understand that. I don’t like it, but I understand it. I just wish I’d known ahead of time.
Recommendations: An interesting series, but I’d definitely recommend picking up the first book first so you understand what’s going on. Although this book (from what I’ve read elsewhere) follows different characters, the background may help you understand what’s going on better. If you like fantasy with a unique twist, I’d pick this one up.
Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.