The ragtag group from Jalard have finally reached Shemet, Sharma’s capital city. Scarred and bereft, they bring with them the grim tale of what happened to their village, and a warning about the ancient powers that have been awakened and now threaten all humanity. Despite this, some of them still hope that reaching sanctuary within the Synod will mean an end to their hardships, but these hopes are soon dashed. Sharma’s ruling class are caught within their own inner turmoil. When Jaedin senses that there are moles within their ranks, not only does his call to crisis fall mostly on deaf ears, but some who do hear seek to thwart him when he tries to hunt these infiltrators down.
Meanwhile, across the Valantian Mountains, Gavendara is beginning to muster its forces. Using ritualistic means to augment their soldiers, their mutant army is like nothing the world has ever seen before. The Zakaras are coming. And Sharma’s only hope of stopping them is if it can unite its people in time.
Thank you to Tej Turner and Elsewhen Press for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.
I recently read and reviewed Bloodsworn, book one in the Avatars of Ruin series, so if you want to see what it’s all about I recommend having a read of that before diving into this post! And, as this is a sequel review, there will be spoilers for book one.
After a flashback prologue, the story opens pretty much where the last one left off; our band of heroes has finally arrived at the capital city of Shemet, and are hoping that once they alert the proper authorities of everything that is going on, they can have some well-earned rest. Things aren’t so simple, though, and the Consil of Shemet are not so keen on the idea of monstrous beings running around their country, capable of turning anyone into one of them. They drag their feet and interrogate everyone thoroughly, much to everyone’s frustration. And tensions run higher when Jaedin senses Zakaras nearby, even in the security of the capital, and realises that they are no mindless monsters, but are more cunning and advanced.
Various schemes see the gang split up, with Jaedin going rogue and trying to find his own answers, Sidry and Baird learn to deal with their new powers, while Kyra, Rivan, Bryna, and Miles venture into enemy territory to try and find out what Gavendara is cooking up for them. Miles, a Gavendarian himself, is torn between the love he has for his country and the horror of what its leaders have been concocting, and there are many moments when I wondered what he might do next. We also get a new point of view character within Gavendaria, which I enjoyed because up until this moment all we had was one side of the story.
Apart from the physical dangers the character face during the course of this book, the biggest source of tension and conflict was definitely the secrets each of them harboured, and the way it affected the trust within the group. I did sometimes struggle with the character interactions, because it felt like everyone was shouting at one another most of the time, each trying to have the last word, and each working quite hard to make themselves unlikeable to everyone else. In book one, they were all thrown in together as unlikely allies, and I understood the tension and arguments then, but I was sad that we didn’t get more of a found family feel in this second instalment, as that is one of my favourite tropes. The other thing that threw me was the way almost everyone seemed to find their budding relationships and sexual tensions more important than the monsters, danger, and potential end to human life as they know it. I do like a bit of romance in my fantasy, but it felt a bit overdone…
But, I have to say, the mythology and world building were just as exciting as I remembered, and I especially liked the fact that we got to see more of the map this time around. Gavendaria, with its cursed lands, certainly didn’t disappoint! I enjoyed the way the two countries have the same pantheon of gods but view them in such different ways, in ways that spill out to affect their cultures and values. That was a neat little detail! We also get to see a bit more of the magic and how it works, and how the different gods can Bless humans. I do wish we got a little bit more information about the magic system, so hopefully that comes in future… And the final scenes definitely left me with a lot of questions, so I look forward to seeing if they get answered in the next book.
Published: 11th February 2022 (digital publication) by Elsewhen Press
Series: The Avatars of Ruin, book two
Narration style: third person, multiple points of view
Format read: paperback
Content Warnings: blood, body horror, incest, death