“Nerana is a sorceress. An exile. The Child of Skye. And she isn’t alone. ”
The Forbidden Realms is the second book in the epic Fallen Light series and brings us back to the brutal and unforgiving world of Laeroth. We all know that it is not an easy task to successfully follow up a first book in a series, especially one that is so strong already, but Newell absolutely knocked it out of the park with this sequel. It’s bigger, darker, richer, and more well-balanced in every single way, proving that this dark epic fantasy series deserves to be mentioned along with the greats of the genre.
This story picks up roughly 6 months after the brutal ending of book 1, Curse of the Fallen, and continues the tale of Neer, our fierce and unstoppable fugitive human sorceress on her quest for vengeance. We find her at the other end of the world in the wild wastelands of Aragoth, where both humans and evae are forbidden from entering. Broken, lost, and without any of her most trusted companions to guide her, she must now rely on her own wits if she is to survive. That is, until she crosses paths with an evaesh sorceress whose fate quickly turns out to be inextricably tied to her own.
I loved being back with Neer and seeing how she is coping with the traumatic and life-changing events that she has had to endure. She is broken but not defeated, and I really liked that we get to see her be a bit more vulnerable in this instalment. The author does a great job of exploring both the physical and mental impact of her harrowing journey, which makes her such a relatable and sympathetic protagonist.
Now, I do think it was a very bold and risky choice to have Neer return as the only familiar face from book 1 and to start this sequel off in a completely new part of the world, but the author pulled it off magnificently. We shift from single POV to multi-POV, which not only naturally broadens the scope of the story and world, but also makes the pacing feel a lot more steady and balanced. There are still plenty of exhilarating action scenes, but I personally really loved how they were broken up with more moments of intro-/retrospection or quiet and emotionally impactful character interactions.
I was also impressed with how quickly the author managed to get me invested in the newly introduced characters. I immediately latched onto them and was very compelled by their intriguing pasts and diverse cultural backgrounds. Through their eyes, we get to explore new lands and races, dive deeper into the complicated history and rich lore of these lands, and also learn a bit more about the intricacies of the magic system. And at no point does the new information ever become overwhelming, because it is all seamlessly and expertly woven into the characters’ personal journeys that we are focusing on.
I am not going to sit here and pretend that I didn’t miss some of my favourite characters from book 1, though I think their absence ultimately turned out to be very beneficial for the story. The light-hearted and witty banter of book 1 is largely missing in this instalment, which gives this story the dark and grim tone that fits with the direction the series is going in.
The stakes continue to rise, more sacrifices have to be made, actions are proven to have serious consequences, and nothing and no one is safe from pain and suffering.
All in all, I am extremely impressed with this sequel and I can safely say that I am now thoroughly invested and in for the long haul with this series. Higher stakes, richer world building, more lore, deeper character development, dire consequences, and even more emotionally impactful twists and turns; The Forbidden Realms has everything you could ever ask for from a great fantasy sequel. This is dark epic fantasy at its best.