Valley of Embers – Steven Kelliher

About the Book

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.

434 pages (paperback)
Published on August 16, 2016
SPFBO mini review
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This book is one of my round finalists for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off. 

Valley of Embers starts out with a bang, getting the reader right into the thick of the action. That wham-bam ending did its job, sucking me in, making me want to cut through the tensions and see the why and how behind everything that was going on. Slowly things open up a bit, and readers are introduced to the protagonists Kole and Lin.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the history involved. It’s given in bits and pieces, but it becomes clear that this threat, these monsters that come out at night, weren’t always the norm. There are people in the village who remember times before this happened, and trying to understand why it’s happening now. Slowly Kelliher weaves in details about the wider world, the culture, the other important things that give this whole book a sense of time and place. I loved how he wove in these important details and world building in a rather effortless way.

The premise of this book is unique. The Dark Kind are very well written, and haunting in their quality. The action is well done, and I enjoyed the whole mystery behind it all, that whole nut that Kelliher cracks open: why is this happening, and what can be done to stop it? That, mixed with the world he built made this book really gripping.

Now, Kelliher obviously cares about the look of his book (ha, that rhymes). The cover is gorgeous, the formatting is spot on, and the design rocks. I hate to say it, but this matters in books. It’s hard to take a book seriously when the formatting is awkward enough to make reading a battle. This book is pretty. That’s weird for me to put into a review, but it was. Very professionally put together, with a cover that stands out, so bravo on that front.

Now, it isn’t all peaches and cream. There were pacing issues regarding the plot. Some scenes could have been cut out with no detriment to the book. Some of the dialogue seemed to confuse matters rather than clear them up. Due to the awkward pacing, some of the scenes that should have been really pivotal to the narrative as a whole felt kind of lackluster.

None of this made me want to stop reading the book, but the issues were there, and they did impact my enjoyment. Mostly I just chalked these up to first book issues. However, I should also add that the characters never really leapt off the page in the way I wanted them to. They were vibrant and well written, but somehow they just fell a little….flat. Perhaps I was wanting more emotion, reaction, personal tension than I actually got in the book. I’m not sure what it was, probably a mixture of all of this, but in the end, it did impact how much I enjoyed the characters.

In the end, I chalked this up to the pacing and dialogue issues I mentioned above. It wasn’t that they were uninteresting, but they didn’t shine as bright as the world or the story being told and that was unfortunate.

This is the first book in a series, and the setup for what comes next is there, and well done. While this book did have its own set of problems, they didn’t ever really overwhelm the book to the point where I had to stop reading. In fact, I found myself reading through those parts that stuck out to me and not minding much because the book itself was so interesting.

It’s epic, and grand, and completely unique. The world is vibrant, the action is well written. This is a book full of darkness and mystery, where people pay high prices just to live, and not everyone survives to the end. Did it have problems? Yes, but in the end, my enjoyment of the book stood out more than any of the problems I noticed.

 

4/5 stars

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