Relics of power...

In spite of how I am generally not too into the Epic Fantasy subgenre, THE KALLATIAN SAGA, has really been working for me. With the third book having just released this fall, I decided that I would continue along with this grand adventure. 

5/5 I think that I still strongly prefer more narrative-driven action stories to big epic fantasies, but at this point I may just be too fully invested in this world and it's characters for that to detract from my enjoyment of the most recent installment in this saga.  

Book two left our characters in some really interesting places. Jined's relationship with Grisone got even deeper, Hanen and Ralia found themselves in charge of the Black Sentinels (or what's left of them), Katiam is now the caretaker for a sentient, magical rose, and Seriah is still reeling from the part she played in unwittingly fulfilling a wicked prophesy. Right from the beginning, I found myself invested in each of these main arcs. I think the parts featuring Hanen and Ralia are still some of my favorite moments the series has to offer. I was a little surprised at how deep into darkness Hanen starts to wander as he comes upon different relics of immense power. He's still the Hanen that we know and it was interesting to see him use these twisted tools for good, but I do worry about what will become of him in the next book. I am also still enamored with the adorable, but brave, Whisper. I really enjoyed Jined's arch as well and was a little surprised that he had really no direct interactions with his god at all this time around. Given how active Grisone was in the previous book, his absence here definitely elevated the sense of mystery around these deities and left our characters to speculate at what his actions (or lack there of) might mean. Katiam remained somewhat static for much of the book, though the time she spent with her new botanical buddy did allow us to further explore the more magical side of this world a bit more. Her story doesn't get quite as mystical as it did before, but there are some serious implications that her chapters will likely have on the next entry in the series. We also get to see a bit more of characters like Astrid, Ophedia, Loic, and Cavian, providing us with more depth into these characters who have been mostly in the background up until now. We also get some representatives from the non-human qavle and hralgren races which was fun. I do wish that we would get a deeper dive into these more alien peoples and aspects of the world, but there's already so much going on, that I don't know how that would fit in. On that note, I will say that there are a TON of characters running around at this point. The cast is a lot more massive than I can personally keep track of sometimes and I occasionally felt like the appearance of a minor character should have been more impactful to me than it was. I am so invested in the primary and secondary members of the cast, that this didn't really bother me at all. It's also worth noting that there is a very detailed glossary included in the back of the book, so those reading visually may have an easier time than I did since you could easily flip back and forth to remember who certain people are.  

With the Moteans only just recently dispatched, a new form of religious fanaticism enters the fray. This militaristic faith reminded me a little of the Red Priests from Brandon Sanderson's ELANTRIS, and it was really interesting to see that kind of thing play out within this setting. Given the importance of Faith to so much of the main plot and some of the main characters, seeing it portrayed in a more negative light felt like it gave some really interesting contrast to how we've seen religious orders handled in the series thus far. One thing that may have helped me enjoy this one more than previous entries is that all of the characters are (sort of) brought together a bit earlier in the story. The conflict is a bit more central as the threat of this tyrannical movement impacts multiple parts of the world at once. That said, there is still this nice balance of giving each of the main character groups their own separate arcs that happen within or around the core narrative. Seeing all of these characters working toward similar ends gave the book a sense of cohesion that I usually don't feel until the end of these books. Even though there isn't necessarily a ton of interaction between the main characters, the way their stories intersected felt quite rewarding. It also seemed as though the stakes have continued to get higher. There appears to be something brewing among the more divine side of things. The full extent of "Little Rose's" powers and abilities remain a mystery. Hanen's collection of powerful items could do him more harm than good and a couple of villains from past books may not be fully dead after all which would certainly complicate things for everyone. Tonally, this book is largely consistent with those that came before, but there is this air of anticipation over what is yet to come. With so much of the main points of conflict left unresolved, it feels as though there might be a bit of a reckoning coming in the next book, so I am very excited to see how that all plays out. 

Given the more centralized nature of the conflict, there isn't quite as much traveling around as there has been in past books. There are a number of different locations visited, but a lot of the action takes place within one main city. I didn't mind this personally, as Meredith has a knack for making somewhat typical fantasy towns/cities/settlements feel rather special in an almost-cozy sort of way that's really hard for me to articulate or put my finger on. I think it was interesting how the events in this place kind of served as a microcosm of the conflict brewing in other parts of the world, including the city that Hanen, Ralia, and company depart from early on. As I mentioned before, there also isn't a whole ton of magical elements outside of the Ratha's magic, but Seriah does have one rather mystical experience near the end of the story that I loved. Hanen also has an encounter with the darker side of the pantheon earlier in the book which I found to be absolutely fascinating. Where I think a lot of the intrigue comes from this time around is in following up on some concepts that were mentioned, but not explicitly shown in previous books. One example is the Black Sentinel Council whom we get to finally meet. What's even more interesting is that it's not necessarily Hanen nor Ralia that get the most amount of interaction with them. The Protectorate Wars also factor in as more than just historical context. Relics from the war start to turn up in the present day and many of them have rather dark natures. With so many races, factions, objects of power, mystical forces, and mysteries to uncover, I am very excited to see what will happen next in this world. 

If you have liked Andrew D. Meredith's performance of his previous books, then you will not be disappointed here. There were a couple of new vocal tricks he used to simulate crowds that I thought were pretty clever, but the narration is otherwise comparable to the audio editions of the previous books. I do continue to be amazed by how well he does with this and it's really cool to hear things like the Forward and Afterward as well as the glossary all read in the author's own voice. There's this sense that the story is being read exactly as the author intended it and I think I'm a little addicted to the idea of authors narrating their own work now. I think Meredith also either is recording or already has done recordings for other indie authors' books, so I will have to check out his other work on Audible at some point as well.

If you've been a fan of THE KALLATIAN SAGA so far, then I think you will love this even more than the first two books. If you've been a little more middling on them, then I would say this one might just make you more excited since it does a nice job of pulling a lot of different things early on while still allowing space for the individual stories to be told. If you haven't been enjoying it, then you probably aren't reading this review anyway :-). 

(+) Characters are all back and better than they ever have been before
(+) Minor characters got some amazing development in this installment
(+) The way faith is represented felt even more interesting as we see examples of religious orders that either want to do good or to dominate in the world
(+) Exciting action sequences help break up the quieter moments
(+) The magic and mythology of this world is expanded upon slightly, with some interesting hints being dropped for what the future may bring
(+) The story leaves off in a rather fascinating place that's not quite a cliffhanger, but definitely doesn't wrap things up in a neat bow either
(+) I continue to appreciate the uniqueness of this world and enjoy it's more alien elements
( ) The scope of the narrative and the cast is still a bit broader than I typically enjoy, but I found that mattering less this time (perhaps partly because I'm feeling pretty invested at this point)


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