“The Talisman of Delucha” is definitely a recommended read…”
Full disclosure: I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy of The Talisman of Delucha (which has in no way influenced my review), in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided below.
I continued my journey into fantasy author A.J. Calvin’s “The Relics of War” series with her follow-up to “The Moon’s Eye”, entitled “The Talisman of Delucha”. I found it to be a great second installment, and whetted my appetite for the conclusion to the trilogy, to see if the despicable Soulless can achieve their conquest of the Five Kingdoms, or if the powers arrayed against them can prevail in the face of overwhelming odds.
With most of the primary characters established in “The Moon’s Eye”, we follow these players through four main storylines, that you can guess are bound to intertwine at various points in the narrative, with stunning results.
First, the aspiring magician, Tavesin practices his skills under the tutelage of the Sorcerers of the Shining Tower. Tavesin will need to be at his most powerful, if he is to find his beloved friend Arra, whom he believes has been abducted by the Dark Tower, along with other magic apprentices. Knowing that Arra likely lies in the clutches of the evil Soulless – demon-like figures who serve an even darker master known as the Nameless – is driving Tavesin to desperation, and unpredictability. His desire to save his friend may lead him to take unwise risks that could compromise the safety of those who have sheltered and trained him in the magic arts.
Next, we learn that Ravin remains serving the Queen of Delucha as a magical advisor, conjointly training the queen and her consort – Jasom – in the arts of magic. Pursued as a love interest by the alluring but likely untrustworthy Duchess of Mers, and other ladies of the court, Ravin’s true aim is to capture Dranamir, one of the accursed Soulless, and devotes his considerable abilities to the task.
Meanwhile, Aran’daj and Jal’den continue to lead the Murkor Clan in battle against their will, fighting for the Soulless because their choice is fight, or face a horrible death at the hands of their Soulless masters. An attack by the Murkor at the Pines ends in disaster and defeat by humans including knights. The Murkor are forced to retreat when the Soulless abandon them. But Aran’daj and Jal’den are playing a dangerous game, plotting how to free themselves and those who follow them from Soulless control.
Finally, the main protagonist from “The Moon’s Eye”, Vardak, one of the Scorpion Men (half-scorpion, half-humanoid creatures from a stoic warrior culture) continues his mission to negotiate the release of his brother Travin, held captive by the Murkor clan. Besides his efforts to save his sibling, Vardak carries guilt surrounding the demise of his friend Janna, daughter of the goddess Flariel, and is seeking to bring meaning to her death. Consequently, Vardak is searching for guidance from the Wizards at Dar Daelad. Accompanying him are the knight Emra, the Airess Dannes, the soldier Lucas, and other bold companions. But when a haunted sword comes into Emra’s possession, it changes the course of Vardak’s quest, and potentially the fate of the world.
As with the previous book, Calvin deftly characterizes a central group of players, which includes beings of diverse races including the Scorpion Men, the Murkors, magicians, the undead Soulless, and more. The varying motivations, desires, and goals of the characters, and how they conflict and converge, is very well done.
I believe the Soulless, clearly the villains of the books, are emerging as my favourite characters to read. Their infighting, deviousness, and mercurial natures make for entertaining reading. With Dranamir’s hate of Alyra, and competing for the attention of their Nameless Master, Jannyn’s lust for Alyra, Kama’s cunning manipulation of the Murkor, while seemingly valuing them beyond what is typical for the callous Soulless, and the enigma that is Garin, the Soulless are a fascinating bunch. Emra also emerged as a favourite, for me outshining Vardak as a charismatic lead. I’m hoping to see more of her in the next book.
Calvin’s prose continues to be strong, and her battle scenes are well-crafted and intense. As I stated in my review of “The Moon’s Eye”, this series is shaping up to be one with a classic fantasy feel, well-paced, well-written, with very good character work, and quite enjoyable to read. It does not necessarily provide as compelling themes as I have read in some other works, but what it does well (aforementioned), it does VERY well, and that is a lot.
“The Talisman of Delucha” is definitely a recommended read, and as noted above, I’m very much looking forward to reading “The War of the Nameless”, the final book in the series.
4.5 stars out of 5!