It is admittedly difficult to review the middle book in an epic series (begun in Eve of Snows and Meliu), as there are always a few pieces of the story that are difficult to understand without the previous books. But even given that caveat, L. James Rice’s TRAIL OF PYRES is an engaging read from the first page, with characters that leap off the page, a rich and well-designed world, and a vigorous plot – or rather, a series of intertwining plots – that never stop moving until the end of the book (and not even then, given that the series continues for two further books). Make no mistake, it is far better to start this series from its beginning in Eve of Snows, as the story is complicated and intricate enough to be confusing in places if you aren’t up on previously-described events, but it is still thoroughly enjoyable in its own right.
Characters are well-designed and three-dimensional – legendary heroes, clan leaders, fair and innocent young maidens, and priestesses wielding deadly and terrible powers manage to be, underneath it all, solidly, believably human, with all the complications and contradictions that state involves. Everyone has a history, everyone has motives that make sense given their history and personality, and there is no character here who ends up feeling flat or stereotyped. The world and its background are complex but well thought through, with different cultures, religious beliefs, environments, and even species interacting in plausible and understandable ways. The plot isn’t clogged by too much explication, either – the world is allowed to unravel itself to the reader quite naturally, so it feels as if we were really there.
The story of TRAIL OF PYRES is multifaceted, as characters move along different paths trying to negotiate, or fight, or plot safe passage for the Silones, and those left behind on an island surrounded by flame try to figure out what the future holds for them while dealing with the mysteries the past left behind. There is darkness here, and suffering – this is no easy trek, and people looking for a pleasant and cheerful romp should go elsewhere – but there is also hope and courage, and survival in dark times. In short, well worth a read, but read the first two books first.
TRAIL OF PYRES is a vital part of a dramatic, sweeping fantasy saga set in a rich and beautifully-designed world, with compelling characters and an action-filled plot.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader