Author: Brandon Cornwell
Length: 267 Pages/ 13 Hours, 13 minutes (Audio)
Publisher: Podium Publishing (Audio)
Release Date: December 1, 2017/ March 27, 2018
Series: Dynasty of Storms
Narrator: Ralph Lister
As with most second books in a series, I had some trepidation with this one. A lot of second books of a series can be a bit of a letdown, especially compared to an outstanding debut. This, however, was not the case with this one. If anything, it took the ball from the first book and ran with it in a wildly creative, dark fantasy epic.
After the events in Greenreef in which Elias, a giant outcast elf, defeated the pirates that had plagued the islands, only to have his betrothed and unborn child murdered by those same pirates, Elias and a force of Sea Elves return to the mainland. They are seeking vengeance on the pirate's leader, Darius Tessermyre, and his allies in the Felle, the dark army of Orcs, Ogres, Trolls and other dark creatures. After landfall, they discover the mainland situation is even more dire than when Elias left, with the Felle making gains everywhere.
Returning to the north to go meet with his foster brother, who was supposed to inherit the throne, Elias and his small army are sidetracked with the changes in the North. He learns from a group of dwarves that Elias helps with a dragon problem, that his brother didn't win the succession. He is now basically caretaker for his own possessions, as dishonest nobles have sided with someone else as king. Elias and his army help his brother take back the city, and then make plans to rescue the former queen, who is still alive and held hostage. The subsequent rescue attempt and its results will change the North forever, as they discover that the cause of all the troubles may tie in to the larger world in ways they never imagined. Secrets will be uncovered as an army the likes of which has never been seen in the North approaches to take down Elias and his allies, and some unlikely allies join the battle to determine the fate of the North in one climactic battle.
While it is an excellently plotted book, and the world building is first rate, this is basically a character driven book. The characters, especially Elias, are so richly detailed, with motivations and actions that ring true to their personalities, you can't help but be engaged as you read. Their every success and failure you feel personally, as you become engrossed in their decision making process. The secondary characters are fleshed out as well, and even the villains have realistic goals and motivations, even if it is just personal ambition. Its obvious the author was dedicated to making characters the reader could believe in.
Ralph Lister handles the narration work in a spectacular fashion. With his sort of raspy British voice, he gives a character life they might not have known otherwise. His emotions really show when he handles the dialogue, and he gives each character a unique voice of their own. His narrative pacing is excellent as always, and he never dips into a monotone. He is definitely one of the best voice actors working in the market today.
Overall, this is a book I wholeheartedly recommend for any fans of dark fantasy. Not quite as grimdark as the first book, and without the adult content of the first, this is easily a worthy successor to the first book and should appeal to a wide range of fantasy readers.