by Lara Giesbers
Westwood Books Publishing

"You have been restless over the years, enduring grief for the people of the Craft. Do you seek power at any cost?"

This sequel to Aries returns audiences to the dual worlds of Nereheim and North Agea, with a stronger emphasis on events in the latter. Giesbers' knack for moving the plotline forward with refreshing new content is unrivaled. The epitome of worldbuilding, the work is predicated upon faith—an unyielding belief in Yahweh—and fantasy, allowing readers to peer deep into the legends of the past through the lens of friends Michael Mauldon and Nathaniel Stone. Relationships will be put to the ultimate test. On the one hand, the God of Blood is determined to reel Nathaniel to the dark side, while on the other, Nafaria is expecting.

Though the next generation of characters is more of a focal point in this piece, Giesbers seamlessly delves into the shadows of prior generations, like that of Michael's great-grandfather Donovan Mauldon, by tapping into their respective diaries. Specifically, the alignment of the planets and stars and its effects on the Anenderes River sets off a period of transcendence that allows the dead to speak and often guide the living. Giesbers' creativity knows no bounds as the present-day characters learn from their predecessors in an attempt to thwart the impending darkness that will soon envelop them.

In typical Giesbers style, the story flows unhindered as it tracks numerous plotlines: Michael settling into his role as the wise one; the evolution of Prince Andrew Catalane into an empathetic royal; Nafaria's knowledge of plants becoming a source of healing for others; and chiefly, Nathaniel's rising desire to be so powerful that his loved ones will never be persecuted. In many ways, Nathaniel's treatment of another child for bullying Nafaria when they were young foreshadows the extent he will go to ensure his loved ones are safe.

As Jared, Prince of North Agea, and his cousin, Prince Andrew Catalane, come together and provide hope for the sister kingdoms, it becomes a race against time for Michael and Nathaniel. One peers into his vast array of volumes and the secrets of the Wheaton estate to understand the way, while the other probes deeper and deeper into a world of darkness and vengeance that leaves very little option for a return path to humanity and Yahweh. Moreover, Nathaniel's meticulous records of those who have wronged him or those he loves are extensive. Whether it is Joel Blackstone, Count Deveraux, or Lord Robert Stowe, Nathaniel directly contradicts the edicts of forgiveness and mercy his mentor, Jason Mauldon, instilled within him.

From poisoned daggers and burning funeral pyres to sacred bells and ominous hammers, the novel employs pinpoint and vivid imagery to prompt numerous questions. Perhaps one that will rummage through readers' minds is whether a man whose slide to the dark side is fueled by noble motivations to protect his loved ones can, in fact, become a danger to those same people he loves. As the story progresses, the characters, particularly Nathaniel and Michael, are involved in a political chess match, one that the other figures are completely unaware of. The worlds of North Agea and Nereheim are hurting, while towns like Denholm Glen see old faces return to take the mantle in their resurgence.

In Giesbers' narrative, the characters are on the fast track to destruction. The only question that remains is who will still be standing to collect the pieces. Just like in real life, the author has characters who fully understand that contributions have a limit. They must pass their knowledge to future generations who will have their own opportunity to leave their imprints on North Agea and Nereheim. However, from each loss, the author is adept at demonstrating resolve and faith through the characters' persistence. Captivating character development and worldbuilding doused with the classic fantasy trait of an abundant backstory will unquestionably leave readers anxiously awaiting the next installment and the hope of harmony in Nereheim and North Agea.

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