“In Cellagor—a land segregated between humans and Elves—fear, manipulation and war are inevitable. Nearly one hundred years have passed since the War of the Fallen, a cataclysmic battle between human and Elf which left both races teetering on the brink of extinction. Now, the Age of Tranquility is finally nearing its end, and the northern King of Havelmir is hungry for power and revenge.”
Full disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and the receiving of the ARC in no way influenced my review.
For epic high fantasy, shaded a bit dark, “A Sea of Cinders”, Adam Bishop’s debut novel, is a good book that has me interested in what the rest of the “Voice of No Quarter” series has in store, after reading this engaging opening installment.
The novel is set in the land of Cellagor, one hundred years after a bloody war has transpired between Elves and Men. An Age of Tranquility has brought nearly completely undisturbed peace between the two races. But peace can only last so long, as men grow idle, and some dream of revenge, acquiring new lands, and increasing their personal power and glory.
One such man is King Dadro of House Braxis, the powerful king of Havelmir, set in the northern part of Cellagor. Dadro wants revenge for the death of his ancestors who fought the Elves in the past. Dadro believes he can pounce when the Elves are in a weak moment, and conceives a plan to vanquish his hated Elven rivals. This plan involves using the prisoners Dadro has captured and kept imprisoned in his dungeons.
Dadro’s idea is for the prisoners to douse the forests that the Elves inhabit, treasure and protect, with an accelerant, so that his soldiers can set the forest alight and destroy the Elves in the process. Dadro promises the prisoners freedom, if they succeed in their task, and manage to survive. But William, a foreign prisoner who’s been one of Dadro’s captives, learns differently. William finds out that Dadro will execute the prisoners who manage to survive the conflagration in the forest. Aided by his friend Baldric, another prisoner, a plan is conceived for the pair to escape with their lives, and for Williams return to his beloved sea-side homeland.
Instead, during this escape attempt, the pair of friends are drawn deeper to the ancient war between Elves and Men, and honour calls them to try and protect the Elves from the megalomaniac Dadro’s aspirations, which will draw all of the realms into needless bloodshed, and possibly lead to the extinction of the entire Elven species.
The heart-warming friendship between William and Baldric is the heart of this novel, and it is a pleasure to read. The plucky, resourceful, and optimistic Baldric provides a nice counterpoint to the more taciturn, sometimes brooding, and cautious William. Their banter, loyalty to one another, and innate goodness make them wonderful, and very relatable characters to read.
The villainous characters are fairly clear cut in the novel, and one will not find a lot of shades of grey, but they are fairly well drawn, and appropriately detestable. You’ll love waiting for them to receive their comeuppance, relish their defeats, and boo their victories.
Additionally, for those who don’t find some well-tested and beloved fantasy tropes comforting, as I do, this book may not be for you. That said, there are some great twists and surprises that I didn’t see coming, and this rousing tale of adventure, epic warfare, camaraderie, overcoming prejudice amongst the Elven and Human races should delight classic fantasy fans.
I’m curious to see where the author takes his tale in book 2, and will be looking out with anticipation for the sequel!