Review of War of Shadows: Book Three of the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga by Gail Z. Martin (Orbit, April 21, 2015)
Blaine and his friends continue the battle to save Donderath from Reese and Pollard and the crazy mage Vigus Quintrel. Blaine’s ex, Carensa, gives us a viewpoint of what Quintrel is doing. She has realized her mentor is bonkers, but fears for her life since he keeps killing mages (whose ghosts actually turn out to be helpful, too).
One event in this book which was a nice change from battles was the wedding of Blaine and Kestel Falke. It takes place at Glenreith and Blaine’s annoying brother Carr does what he can to disrupt things and pull the newlyweds away from the festivities. The Madness seems to have left Carr with a desire to take increasingly bigger risks until he is killed, so while Niklas gives him some scouting jobs, most of his time is spent on very risky missions he doesn’t have orders to do.
There are increasingly violent storms across Donderath as the natural weather patterns reestablish themselves after years of manipulation by mages. Not quite as bad as the weather in Edgeland, but all the rain and snow causes flooding and much damage to already damaged buildings. They have to balance using soldiers for defense with using them to rebuild falling buildings. The damage to buildings and fields means that food is scarce. Blaine and his allies encourage people to plant crops and round up livestock that is running wild, but Pollard and Quintrel don’t do this: they just steal the common people’s food for themselves.
There are many battles in this volume, all well-written and having some magic-based surprises. Poor Blaine is the anchor of the world’s magic and it wears him down and gives him headaches when he is near magic. His mages are able to help him some with artifacts they find, but it is basically a race to see whether he can last until his mages figure out how to create more lords of the blood, so the anchoring goes between thirteen. Quintrel wants to be able to control the anchors, so of course he does everything in his power to keep Blaine from his task.
This volume is a bit large, but it moves quickly and doesn’t bog down between fighting scenes. The Elder Council of the talishte, including the Wraith Lord in Connor’s body, is essential to the plot of this volume. The talishte appear ready to take on roles on both sides as the book closes, so future volumes could get very bloody if they enter into the war in a more direct way.
This volume ends a story arc, so if you are one of those folks who like to wait until a trilogy is finished to start reading, now’s your time to pick this one up.
If you are an epic fantasy lover, then this is a series you should try! It’s epic fantasy in an interesting world with some great male and female characters. Kestel, Blaine’s wife, was an assassin before she was sent to Edgeland. Many people who met her didn’t believe her tales, but in this volume she fights like a dervish and acts as Blaine’s fighting partner. Nothing says love like protecting your mate while using lots of nasty pointy things!