The rarest of things: a strong middle volume in a trilogy!
Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac 2) will be published on 16th October 2017.
This is the second book in the series and so the blurb below contains spoilers for book 1 – Rise of the Sparrows. However, my review is spoiler free!
The blurb: Once a despised street rat, now the reigning queen of Rifarne, Rachael is at the centre of everyone’s attention. All she wants is a few peaceful moments to herself — but her kingdom has other plans.
A Mist Woman brings her a gift, and a warning: Aeron’s death has released the Dark One’s shades into the world. And Rachael, as the only living seer in existence, is the only one who can stop him before he destroys everything she’s beginning to cherish. But can Rachael trust the Mist Woman, or is Kaida just another sorceress playing with her life?
Rachael is running out of time. The shadows are coming, and their claws are reaching for her.
Sarina very kindly gave me an advanced reader copy of Wardens of Archos to read.
The second book of a trilogy often suffers from “saggy middle” syndrome. I’m very happy to say this is in no way the case with Wardens of Archos. Everything in this book moves the story forward swiftly; there is no sense of treading water or trying to fill time before Book 3.
The one concern I had with Book 1 – that I needed more background information about the world the characters were operating in – does not apply in Wardens of Archos either. I got all the information I’d previously wanted about Rifarne and its place in the world, and we even get to see some of these other colourful locations. This makes perfect sense. Both books are told mostly from Rachael’s point of view. In the first book she’s only just discovering who she is and how she fits into the grander scheme of things, so we’re a little in the dark along with her. But as she starts to find out more about herself and the world around her in Book 2, so do we. I think I have a compulsive need for answers! Any readers feeling the same way after Book 1 will be very happy with how many pieces of the puzzle are revealed in Book 2.
It’s also great that the romance which was only hinted at in Book 1 is still taking a back seat to the main action. I’ve read other fantasy stories where the end of the world is imminent, and yet the characters seem only to be concerned with their many, many feelings for each other, which never struck me as realistic! That said, there are several nice moments in Wardens of Archos which suggest that things are developing in the “right” direction – we’ll just have to wait for Book 3 to find out how it all pans out. (A personal plea to the author: PLEASE don’t kill the love interest off!!).
The series continues to feature many strong, complex female characters who move the action forward, including several new ones. It is always great when a fantasy series has women with real agency at its centre, rather than existing as mere plot devices or window dressing.
Overall: a great continuation of the series. It’s not often that the middle book of a trilogy manages to surpass the first while setting things up so well for the concluding volume.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul