Valley of Embers (Landkist Saga #1) by Steven Kelliher
Rating: 3.5/5 stars – ★★★.5
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.
Synopsis: For hundreds of years, the flame-wielding Embers have been the last line of defense against the nightmare creatures from the World Apart, but the attacks are getting worse. Kole Reyna guards Last Lake from the terrors of the night, but he fears for his people’s future. When Kole is wounded by a demon unlike any they have seen before, the Emberfolk believe it is a sign of an ancient enemy returned, a powerful Sage known as the Eastern Dark. Kole has never trusted in prophecy, but with his people hanging on the precipice, he reluctantly agrees to lead the Valley’s greatest warriors in a last desperate bid for survival. Together, they will risk everything in search of a former ally long-thought dead, and whether Kole trusts him or not, he may be the only one capable of saving them.
I’m not really sure where I stand with this book. On the one hand, I did enjoy reading it. On the other hand, I was also confused at times and the beginning didn’t captivate me immediately. It was a nice read though, and by the end I was much more invested in the characters.
I always try and talk a bit about the world when reviewing a fantasy book. This was the part of the book that confused me at times, I have to admit. I also think that’s the reason it took me a few chapters to get into it.
So this book plays out in the Valley. It’s a place with multiple cities/towns spread out. Kole lives in Last Lake, and has grown up there his entire life. Another big chunk of the story plays out in Hearth, a different big town/city in the Valley.
Kole is an Ember, which means he can control fire -I think. They need a source to keep the fire going during a fight but they can light their blades with flames and such. His father, Karin, is the First Runner of Last Lake. Every big town has a First Runner and a First Keeper (I believe). The First Runner is sort of like a scout -the best one of course. He goes to different towns and settlements and gathers information. The First Keepers are the head of the city, and are usually Embers. Still following me? There are also those blessed by the Faeykin and they have healing powers, can sometimes travel through the between and have piercing green eyes. And there are Rockbled, which are people with some sort of power over rocks, like the Embers have over fire?
The people living in the Valley did not always live there. Once, they lived in the desert. But a war between the Eastern Dark and the rest of the world (basically) forced them to leave. They went to the Valley. Their king -the Ember King- and the White Crest -a sorcerer/Sage- rode out to defeat him. In doing so, they blocked the passage out of the Valley and now the people all live there. This happened a few generations before Kole, I think.
To be honest, while I enjoy this history and world in this book, there are two minor issues with it. The Eastern Dark and its lieutenants, the Sentinels, really reminded me of Sauron and the Nazgûl. I don’t know, it may just be me? Second, I was confused at times. Some people are Landkist, which means they were blessed with powers by the land? And I don’t know whether an Ember is Landkist, or a Faeykin is or everyone is? Maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention, but the terms sometimes confused me.
I did love the rich history, and how the people fervently believed in it. How shocking it was for one person to challenge those beliefs.
I thought this book would go as following: something bad would happen, Kole would state it’s time for a mission and the best of the people would follow him.
But that was not the case. In fact, Kole did go out on a mission, but nearly died. And then his friend went out with a few of the most powerful warriors to do the same. After recovering, Kole attempts to follow. Because of the separate journeys, I was sometimes confused as to where the different characters were?
While this book was enjoyable, it lacked something in my opinion. I can’t really put my finger on what though. With a fantasy story, I want to be immersed in the story and world -and the characters. And while I enjoyed the story and grew to like most of the characters, I was never truly captivated by the book.
At first, I wasn’t a giant fan of Kole. I didn’t dislike him either, I just didn’t love him. But he really grew on my throughout the story. He was loyal to his friends and family, and would do anything to help them. Even if it means challenging their beliefs, their generations-old hope for a savior.
In fact, I really liked how the main characters all had their strengths and flaws. Lin may not be an Ember, but she’s a fierce warrior. Nathan may be quiet and seem innocent, but he’s the best hunter ever. Baas may not be the most outspoken, but he’s tough and strong. I like that both good and “bad” qualities are shown, because it makes the characters feel a lot more realistic.
Overall, I’d say this was an enjoyable read. Especially considering the fact that it’s a debut novel. It’s a solid fantasy read, but I just wish it had that something more… Something to really grip my attention. And I do think that the history and world building could have been a bit more clear/spread because it was a tad overwhelming and confusing at times. But if you like YA fantasy, I’d recommend it.