Author: Jacob Gowans
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Length: 512 pages
Henry Vestin believed that despite being only a carpenter he could lead Isabelle and their friends to safety. He thought he could defy an emperor and protect Isabelle from harm. He was certain that love and friendship would be enough to survive.
He was wrong.
The Secrets of Neverak follows Henry and his friends after the disastrous battle at the Iron Pass. Horrors await them in strange new lands. Crippled and broken, Henry must rely on his friends more than ever. Allies and foes find them at every turn, but which are friendly and which are deadly? Isabelle, now a slave in Neverak, finds herself surrounded by enemies, uncertain about the fate of her friends, and desperate to escape. The Emperor moves forward with his plans of conquest, spurred on by the Seer's dark prophecy, but he has not forgotten those who defied him.
Return to the world of Atolas, where a blade can extend life or end it, where friendships can topple kingdoms, and where the Path of Light and Shadow is feared by all but a few.
Characters: Once again we enter the adventure of Henry Vestin as he and his party now have to rescue Isabelle from the clutches of the Emperor of Neverak. However, before they do they have a great many things to accomplish and adventures to go on. Isabelle, now a slave to the Emperor, wants nothing more than to be reunited her beloved and betrothed, luckily for her before the Emperor will even touch her she must go through four months of cleansing, and she had four months to escape his clutches. While I bonded with these characters much more than I did in the previous installment, their flaws are much too glaring. I don't mid flaws in the protagonists I read, I love it even as it shows that they aren't just two dimensional characters but relateable and interesting characters, but they all have flaws that when mixed together in this party can be at times very grating. There is a great deal more character development which, over time, made these characters all the more bearable.
Romance: The romance in this book is insane. While there isn't much romance, if any depending on how you look at it, between Henry and Isabelle given their separation, there is a great deal of romance for Maggie, Ruther, and James. This love triangle was probably the most aggravating part of this book because as the reader I never knew quite where they stood with each other, who knew what, and what the other's feelings were. There were only minor glimpses of their feeling until toward the end when it, well it wasn't really sorted out but, came to a head. I'm still not quite sure how I feel about any of the pairings, but even given how aggravating the romance could be there were times that I ended up really enjoying it.
World-Building: Now this is what I'm talking about! So when I went into the previous installment I had these expectations for some of the "selling-points" for the book, great romance, strong friendships, and a well written fantasy world steeped in magic. However, when I read the previous book, I found these points to be either lukewarm or practically non-existent. However this book had all of that in spades. The friendships of our main group grow stronger, there's a more compelling romance, and finally we get a deeper look into the magic of this world. I won't say too much, since I don't want to spoil anybody, but lets just say there's a character that shows us first hand how the magic in this series can be used. Another point of interest was the frame story for this book, the parts of the story written in first person. While I merely wrote it off last time as what I had thought to be a way for the author to in a way write himself into the story, it becomes more more evident that there's a deeper meaning behind it that I'm excited to see develop. Though I do have to say that given the length of these books I don't know how the storyteller can relay these installments into a single night's tale, not a complaint just an observation.
Predictability: This book was wildly less predictable than the last. I was surprised how well the foreshadowing wasn't too heavy handed as I felt is was in the previous installment. Instead the foreshadowing was a lot more subtle and led to some pretty amazing twists and turns along this journey. There were actually a few times when I knew what was going to happen, but there would be a moment when I would hesitate and think that maybe something different would happen, unfortunately they were times when had they not gone how I would have expected them to it would have come off as weak writing, luckily every time they did go as I had thought
Ending: If I only took away one thing from this ending it would have been that this story is far from over. I could easily see this series being as long a five or six books depending on how the author spun things. If you had told me that after the last book I wouldn't be sure if I wanted to invest in such a long series, however after reading this book I'm in it for the long haul. There was a fantastic final climax, actually there were a few "final" climaxes, and the ending left off on a cliffhanger, though not quite one as big as the previous book. Then there was the ending to the frame story which alluded to quite a few things and definitely peaked my interest.
Wow! I was really surprised by this book, while there were a few things that I didn't quite enjoy and I do feel as though the length of the book still seems a bit unnecessary, I ended up really enjoying it and look forward to continuing this adventure!