So let's see here, yesterday was Easter, one of the busiest days of the year for us pastor-types. I was understandably tired by the end of the day, and yet I stayed up waaaaay too late last night when I should have been getting caught up on my sleep. And it's all Jill Williamson's fault, because I was finishing up From Darkness Won, the final installment in the Blood of Kings trilogy.
Okay, so it's really my fault, I'm not so brazen as to blame Jill for my own bad decisions (I'm willing to bet I'm going to pay for that choice throughout the day). But I simply had to know what was going to happen to Achan Cham and Vrell Sparrow.
Achan, the true crown prince of Er'Rets, continues to gather troops loyal to him to take on Esek, the man who tried to usurp his throne. But a new threat, a wizard named the Hadad, is asserting himself, making the battle that much more difficult. But throughout it all, Achan is distracted, because he doesn't know where Vrell Sparrow, the woman he loves, has disappeared to.
Vrell wants to join the fight as a healer, but as she tries to join the resistance, she is "stormed," her soul knocked free of her physical body. Achan must reunite her and make her whole, but after he does, she behaves oddly, as if she doesn't remember who she is or what she's been doing.
As long-time readers of my blog will know, I'm a huge fan of Jill Williamson's books ever since Marcher Lord Press published her first book two years ago. I've been looking forward to seeing how she would wrap up this series and I have to say, she did an excellent job (but I would expect nothing less). There's a lot of adventure, a lot of great humor, and some genuine gut-wrenching emotional moments. The action scenes were well-paced and, once again, Jill's world positively sparkled with detail. It's easy to tell that she's spent a lot of time crafting the history of each region. At the end of the book, there's a partial interview with the folks at Fiction Addict, and they asked Jill if we might revisit Er'Rets someday. She said it's possible. My reaction? "Yes, please!"
I was a little surprised at how much "winding down" the book did after we hit the climax. I'm not complaining about this by any stretch of the imagination. It was a nice reward to see how things worked out in the end.
That being said, I do have two minor . . . well, "complaints" is too strong of a word and I'm not really sure what word fits here. Anyway, here they are:
First, I was a little disappointed in what felt like a major change of character in Gren, Achan's childhood sweetheart. In the first two books, Gren was such a sweet girl that my heart just ached for her since she had an extremely difficult time. By the end of this book, though, my sympathy for her was pretty much gone. I wondered where the sweet girl had gone. She felt different. Maybe it's just me.
Second (and this is something that bugs me when it happens in any series of books) is the revelation of what the Hadad actually is, something that happens in the prologue of the book. Even still . . .
It's revealed that the "prime mover" in the plot against Achan and his family is a person called the Hadad, a wizard possessed by a demon called the keliy. It turns out that everything that Achan has experienced is because of the keliy's direction.
Here's my problem: there was no hint of the keliy's existence in the previous two books. This is a fairly major development that felt like it came completely out of left field for me. To get ready to read this final installment, I reread By Darkness Hid and To Darkness Fled to refamiliarize myself with characters and the overall plot. When I read about the keliy for the first time, I wracked my brain to remember if it had been mentioned or hinted at and I came up dry.
This whole situation reminds me of The DragonCrown series by Michael Stackpole. It's another fantasy series with a fantastic enemy, an evil sorceress who was awesome in her own right. Then, in the fourth book, Stackpole revealed that she worked for a group of powerful beings that were never mentioned or hinted at in the previous books. In his case it felt tacked on and off-putting. In the case of the keliy, it wasn't nearly so bad but it rankled just a little.
None of this was enough to dampen my enthusiasm or enjoyment of this book or the series as a whole. This is, quite simply, some of the best fiction I've read over the past few years and I'm a little sad that the journey is over.
But maybe I'm not quite done with this book yet. I actually have three copies of From Darkness Won that are looking for good homes. So here's what I'll do. Leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you between now and next Monday at midnight, CST. Next Tuesday, I'll put the entrants in a hat and have my son draw three names. Those three will win a copy of the book.