Perhaps you will be after reading the reviews of the recently released A SEA OF SKULLS, Book Two in the Arts of Light and Dark epic fantasy series. If you haven’t started the series yet, you will probably want to start with Book One, A THRONE OF BONES, which is available in Kindle Unlimited.
Worthy successor series to LOTR
“A Sea of Skulls” picks up and accelerates the pace from “A Throne of Bones”. We see some well-developed characters killed off, but encounter other interesting characters of multiple Selenoth races. Amorr and its former allies and provinces gird for war, while a Lost Legion allies with X to defend against a major orc invasion. The elves and dwarves gather their forces to defend against orcs, and also to keep a sharp eye on Man. At several places, you feel a cold chill as you realize one of the minor characters might well be one of the first race, hiding in shadows, biding its time and waiting to seize power for their own ends (enslaving or destroying the younger races). The action and lead characters are spread across the continent, where military action or political intrigue in one realm affects three or four others. The story line is woven more deftly than the first book, and increases the pull of action and intrigue.
Each race has its backstory and cultural values; gruesome as some may be, the cultures, assumptions, and lifestyles are internally consistent. Vox Day also describes each race’s military merit well, showing a consistent triad of strategy, tactics, and logistics that fits with the race’s culture. There are no all-powerful and ever-victorious species in Selenoth; the trick is in understanding your own strengths and then using you enemy’s weakness to best effect. Coalition forces work or don’t work, based on how well the commanders enhance strength and mitigate weaknesses. Political and social life are well written and reasonable for each race. Some of the best moments in the character views are watching how one observer looks in amazement or bemusement at how another race or culture lives – the fish out of water scenario. The set of viewpoint characters is finite and severely bounded, so it’s possible to keep several scattered event tracks in mind with minimal searching for a reminder.
There is a comparison to be made with A Song of Ice and Fire. By comparison, the Arts of Dark and Light is written much richer, more coherently, with a better span of scope, and with a definite conclusion in mind.
A Genre Revisited
From the moment you pick up, and/or scroll through your epub device, you will not be able to put this book down until you have finished it…. If ASOS were an MMA fight, you will be punched in the face in the first thirty seconds, and continually pummeled until the end. There is no respite, no pauses in the action…you will experience Ali fighting Frazier from the moment you begin until the instant you reluctantly put the book down. Each POV character introduced is both interesting and endearing. The characters are so expertly written, that you find yourself wondering who you are rooting for. You will not need to continually consult the appendix to figure out who is speaking…the characters are immediately apparent and recognizable.
I slogged through Jordan’s Wheel of Time series years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed, and struggled through, Martin’s endless introduction of characters in his later books. Regarding both great authors, I must admit that there were times where I scrolled quickly through the flotsam to get to the action. ASOS requires no such recklessness. For those who disregard Vox Day as a Christian seeking to further his evangelistic agenda, have no fear. There is none of that. The prelude itself will avail you of any attempt to evangelize the Christian agenda…. Vox Day has successfully taken a genre and, as no author has done in the past decade, rewritten the rules for fantasy and violence.
Great novel: Better than the first
As others have noted, this sequel is better than the original. The writing is better. The characters get better. The dialog gets better. Everything is better. And the first was great.
There is a love that Vox has for his characters. It shows in the richness of vision that describes them, and the way he holds them true to themselves and the culture that created them. It is easy to suspend disbelief in Selenoth and to get caught up in the narrative, carried along by the vivid “lifefullness” of his creations. Even the antagonists in the story, fighting for the “wrong” side, are delivered with an empathy to allow the reader to ride alongside them: Thinking what and how they think, feeling what and why they feel.
Wrap those characters around a exceptionally good story line and you come out with the absolute best novel of the year. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
Fantastic Epic Fantasy
I have hours poring through this monster…. and I can say it is superior in every way to its predecessor. Be forewarned… if you haven’t read A Throne of Bones recently it may be worth your while to refresh your memory a bit. This book doesn’t hold your hand. There is no backtracking to catch you up on important details you may not remember. And if you haven’t read A Throne of Bones then you absolutely cannot start with this one.
The writing is more taut. The different races… orcs… elves… dwarves… are treated much better than the standard fantasy offering and genuinely feel like distinct cultures. Some of the best chapters of the book are actually written from an orc invader’s perspective. The book is courageously written. It doesn’t play nice with your modern sensibilities… and it does not shrink from the brutal realities of invasion, warfare, and barbarism