Where Shadows Fall
by Tom Fallwell
5 out of 5
When the Rangers discover that a deadly and horrific dragon of unspeakable power has been loosed upon their world, they must find a way to destroy the monster before the creature of shadows burns them all into oblivion. Complicating their efforts, the discovery of a secret and hidden dragon cult that worships the monster, and a conspiracy of dark forces from the realm of shadows, threatens to destroy the peace their world has known for centuries and bring war to the people of Hir. Political and economic turmoil ensue and result in mistrust between the rulers of the lands of Hir.
Struggling to survive the deepest of betrayals, the Rangers face a dark and foreboding time, as the world of Hir changes dramatically around them. Baric faces an impossible task of entering the realm of shadows, the World Between Worlds, to stop the lethal attacks of the King of Shadows, Doomrage, and save the soul of his lost love, Whisper.
The Day of Chaos is one that will go down in the annals of history as a day that altered the political landscape of Hir forever, and the Rangers must struggle to survive in a world gone mad, as the shadows of death and destruction fall over the entire world. Friends are lost, and new friends are found, in a story of survival and determination for the Rangers of Laerean.
After stopping an evil threat, at the cost of many brave allies; Baric and the Rangers discover that the world is still in danger. The fragile peace between nations is pushed to breaking point, and heroes are cast down and broken.
This leads on from A Whisper in the Shadows. Baric and co have returned victorious from stopping the big bad - but at the price of Whisper sacrificing herself.
There is a feeling that not everything is tied up and finished, and perhaps there's something worse on the horizon.
I really enjoyed this sequel. It has all the action, adventure and creativity as the first book; but this is better. It felt like a much more original story, rather than an echo of something I've read before. It kept me guessing throughout, and had some real moments that caught you by surprise.
Rather than just following Baric, the story encompasses several narratives, making it clear that, even though Baric is a hero, he's not the only one. There are a lot of people working towards the goal of overcoming this new and impossible threat. I really liked the way this was done - one of my peeves with the first book was that all the secondary characters were interminable; I can honestly say that they have improved immensely in this book. Several characters are given the spotlight, and it was so much easier to invest in them, and I look forward to finding out where some of the storylines go.
There's a lot more tension in this book, too. It's cast off it's nice vibe, and feels a lot more real. The perfect Rangers have been pushed off their pedestal, and paranoia is strife, as the "brothers" try and work out who is betraying them. There is also a lot of political tension, as alliances fracture and break, and the opportunistic are stepping into the gap.
As I said earlier, all the characters step up, but there are also some great new characters in this book.
Sainsha doesn't give the Rangers much choice, and ends up being a companion for Wolf and Baric. I liked her character, she has a quiet confidence, and is a positive light when things are a bit grim. She can more than take care of herself, and isn't daunted by any of the dangerous situations they end up in.
Ramura was a very interesting new addition. He's an enormous, immortal white lion. He's almost a deity in the eyes of men, and especially the Zumarians. He is wise, and knowledgeable, and kind for the most part. But what I like especially is that he can be selfish, and can allow his desire for self-preservation to affect his decisions.
The things that didn't work so well for me.
It is slow to start, which is to be expected because there is a lot more world-building going on. But I felt the pace could be improved a little bit without all the obvious character analyses in the narrative. There were quite a few instances when there was some description or history, or glimpse of what the future held; which was made unnecessary, by the perfectly-explanatory dialogue and actions of the characters. So it did feel like some repetition.
This dies down in the second half, as the adventure kicks up a gear.
I was also unconvinced with something towards the end.
It felt a little jarring that Baric should spend a month between worlds, hunting Doomrage with a real plan to put him out of action. Then after defeating the leader of the Gromshikar, he's pretty quick to agree to give up. Yes he's injured, but he's so close, and they haven't even tried! I was disappointed with how complacent he was with it all. I would have much more believed it, if Baric had been knocked unconscious and Ramura dragged him back to the real world before he could argue, where his Rangers could be further voices of reason.
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Anyway, I'm looking forward to the final part of the trilogy. And guess who won a free copy when Shadow of Narwrym was released!