Book Review: Ancient Voices

Ancient Voices BC_med by Allison D. Reid

Book Description per Goodreads:

The Kinship rides victorious into the small village of Minhaven, just in time to celebrate the Winter Festival. Their leader, Glak, brings with him both hope and spoils from battle, but also some distressing news. Though Minhaven’s greatest threat has finally been defeated, a new one is emerging to take its place. The enemy Glak describes has not been seen in hundreds of years, yet somehow it has been haunting Elowyn’s dreams. Has Braeden’s cruel reach followed her from Tyroc’s troubled borders into this remote wilderness? If so, there is no place left to run, and the Kinship is preparing to fight an enemy more sinister and powerful than they can possibly imagine. Past becomes present, as prophecies long buried continue to emerge, revealing their truth to the coming generation. The Era of Peace has ended. The Era of Awakening has begun. While Morganne seeks guidance from the crumbling pages of ancient tomes, Elowyn tries to find her place within a community for the first time. Despite the impending danger, Morganne and Elowyn decide to make their stand with the people of Minhaven. As they plunge into the depths of history, prophecy, the wilderness, love, fear, hope, faith…the girls begin to learn more about who they are, and who Aviad is calling them to be.

Book Review: I ended up reading both Book 1 and 2 at the author’s request so I could properly review Ancient Voices: Into the Depths, and the back-to-back experience was quite interesting. The world of the story was compelling and rich, and even after I finished the books, I found myself wanting to go back and see what happens next…only to remember that the rest of the story isn’t written.

So here is a closer look, examining the book’s Narration, Content, Characters, Artwork, World Building, and my Overall Response.

Narration: 4 out of 5. This is one of the areas where the novel, and the series itself, excels. There is a distinct feel and tone to the overall world, and while bits and pieces remind me of other fantasies and legends, it still is very unique. The dialogue and passages of ancient tomes carry most of the plot momentum, and they are undeniably the best part. They capture an ancient feel, and a more modern, yet still old, for us, tone at the same time. I never felt like the characters were out of place for their time and era, which was nice.

The description portions were rather vague (as noted below, under World-Building) save for when they were describing things out of prophecies, like the Black Shrine or the chamber of bones. Those parts were memorably, creepily precise, but not so dark in tone as to make this book go beyond a PG-13 rating, for me.

Content: 2 out of 5. Compared to Journey to Aviad, this is a much slower novel, and I feel like it would’ve been better as a prequel of sorts, published in between Book One and what will be Book Three. For the most part, the novel chronicles the girls’ first year in Minhaven and doesn’t advance any of the earlier questions we had at the end of Journey to Aviad. We don’t know where the “good monks” went, or where Einar is, or what the coin was that Elowyn picked up and is still hanging onto (well, by now we have some serious suspicions, but no resolution).

We do know more about the evil beings that are appearing  and about the prophecies surrounding Azaloth’s reemergence, and we have a slightly broader idea of the creatures involved, but it didn’t feel like the plot really advanced, overall. There were no important battles (the pivotal battle hinted at in the first scene doesn’t seem to take place in this novel), no serious advances in how to combat the evil forces, and no major altering of the status-quo that we had when Book One ended.  So it felt like it would’ve made a good backstory novel, where fans can go to find out more about the rich tapestry of the world, but not really part of the sequence of events required to show what seemed to be the main thrust of the series: “How did the fate of the world rest in the hands of Elowyn, and how did she help vanquish the evil that emerged in her time?”

Characters: 4 out of 5.  The characters are the best part of the series, for me. Elowyn and Morganne get about an equal share of this novel (and there is some head-hopping, as chapters that start with one POV switch to another by the end), and I really enjoyed getting to know Morganne more. In many ways, this story seemed to belong more to Morganne than to Elowyn, but that may be just me, as the romance side of this story just didn’t speak to me. (I can’t recall how old Elowyn is, by this point, but I don’t feel like she’s old enough to truly fall in love. She could surely experience a crush, but she felt too young for love, personally.)

Most of the new characters I liked, though there were some who seemed like they were supposed to be more important and weren’t…at least, not yet. Davin, who trained the girls in how to fight, and Brogan the Bard felt like they were given enough page time and attention to matter, yet not enough to clarify why they were important, so I wonder that they’ll come into the story more later.

Artwork: Subjective. It was funny, but the cover actually made me think of another fantasy book I happened to be reading in between the two novels (which I can’t properly review, as I ended up skimming the last half, but it had a character who was infected by the Wood, to where she ended up being somewhat wooden ever after that).

I guess I just didn’t find anything particularly “northern-like” in the picture, and Elowyn looked more like a dryad or a wood elf than a woods-woman. (Part of my confusion may be from knowing such northern forests, firsthand; only the very edges have such a dense packing of trees and underbrush, as the deeper forests have bare floors or nearly bare, since the trees overhead take up all the sunshine.)

World Building: 4 out of 5. This was one of the most complete and elaborate fantasy worlds I’ve encountered in some time. There were so many layers of history, legend, myth, and culture that it really felt like a real place (though the map felt a little bit simplified, and not at all as I pictured it from Book 1).

The only thing that felt just a little bit vague was the lack of specific details. In the description passages of the places Elowyn and Morganne are currently visiting, words like bare, empty, comfortable, and welcoming were used, rather than showing how these adjectives fit the places. While fantasy can often seem to be a case of “once you’ve read about one place, you’ve read about them all, I still think it’s important to share what the characters are seeing and experiencing. (For example, are the houses all made of logs? Boards? Covered with plaster? What kinds of roofs are the girls encountering? Being from the south, there should be some remarkable differences between the houses they were accustomed to, and those of the north, yet at one point, Elowyn mentions how a house reminds her of her old house.)

Overall Response: 14 out of 20, for a total of 3.5. Personally, I preferred Journey to Aviad to this one, but I think the series overall is well worth reading. If you like realistic fantasy books, where everyone doesn’t always know what to do and the heroines aren’t of the “super-fighter” variety, you’ll enjoy this book, with its gentle warmth, heart-felt characters, and interesting plot. Of all the books I’ve read through my book reviews, the next one in the Wind Rider Chronicles is the one I’m most looking forward to reading (whenever it is published).

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Copyright Andrea Lundgren 2016

Photo courtesy of Allison D. Reid

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