Hello readers, and welcome to Mini Reviews, where I talk about some of the books I don’t write full length reviews for. This installment, let’s chat about: Terciel and Elinor, Hush and Veil.
Terciel and Elinor (The Old Kingdom #6) | Garth Nix
In the Old Kingdom, a land of ancient and often terrible magics, eighteen year-old orphan Terciel learns the art of necromancy from his great-aunt Tizanael. But not to raise the Dead, rather to lay them to rest. He is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, and Tizanael is the Abhorsen, the latest in a long line of people whose task it is to make sure the Dead do not return to Life.
Across the Wall in Ancelstierre, a steam-age country where magic usually does not work, nineteen year-old Elinor lives a secluded life. Her only friends an old governess and an even older groom who was once a famous circus performer. Her mother is a tyrant, who is feared by all despite her sickness and impending death…but perhaps there is even more to fear from that.
Elinor does not know she is deeply connected to the Old Kingdom, nor that magic can sometimes come across the Wall, until a plot by an ancient enemy of the Abhorsens brings Terciel and Tizanael to Ancelstierre. In a single day of fire and death and loss, Elinor finds herself set on a path which will take her into the Old Kingdom, into Terciel’s life, and will embroil her in the struggle of the Abhorsens against the Dead who will not stay dead.
Every time I think this story is over, another book pops up, and where I usually dislike stories getting dragged on with novellas and spin offs, The Old Kingdom series has never been one of them. This is such a fascinating world that I would read as many books set in it as the author would care to write. This story in particular, that of Sabriel’s parents, is one I’ve been curious about for a very long time, ever since I read the first book. This book takes us to new parts of the map while also returning to some well known ones that still have a few secrets to share.
Elinor’s perspective was an great one to see this story from, as a character who knows absolutely nothing about magic or the Old Kingdom as opposed to all the other characters we’ve met so far in this series. However, there were times in the narrative where I felt like the author forgot this point and Elinor knew things she shouldn’t have had any way of knowing, and there were some explanations and background for the reader that really should have come from Terciel instead. Terciel was an interesting character, but there was barely any character development in his arc. It would have been nice to see some of Terciel’s training with Tizanael before the time leap as well, because there’s so much left unanswered there, particularly with regards to his sister Rahi being taken away to be trained as the Abhorsen in Waiting years ago and how Tizanael is responsible not only for her death, but also for Terciel being left to fend for himself on the streets at such a young age.
We also see more of Kerrigor, but from an entirely different perspective, that of people who are not fully aware of who and what he is and do not have the time to figure it out. Terciel and Elinor’s relationship felt very insta-lovey to me and despite knowing how they turn out from later books, I did not feel invested in it at all. However, it did build on the information we know from Sabriel about her parents and was helpful in understanding their characters to an extent.
The one thing I found most odd about this book was the amount of background explanation and world building that was still present despite this being the sixth book in the series. I think it’s a safe assumption that it’s very unlikely that any reader would start this series with this book, and so would already know all this information. Some of it was new of course, the insight into the Clayr and Elinor’s connection to them was an angle that definitely the enhanced the plot, but much of the rest could have been cut down. Even if the intent was to make this book readable as a standalone, it wouldn’t work as this is a spinoff and I feel like the readers who already know this world and have been following this story since Sabriel would be the ones interested in this, not to mention that this would be a very confusing book to start reading the series with, especially given the depth of the world.
As for the ending, there was a lot of build up, but the dramatic action sequence was rather short in comparison, owing to not only the unnecessary length of the book, but also the slow pacing. Still, it tied in perfectly to the story we know and there were some intriguing reveals to boot. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I do hope there will be more spin offs. It was lovely to return to this world for another story and I would highly recommend this book for fans of the Old Kingdom series.
Publishing Date: November 2nd, 2021 (Katherine Tegen Books)
Hush (Hush #1) | Dylan Farrow
Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.
When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.
Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.
In the land of Montaine, ink, which is suspected to be the origin of a deadly plague known, is banned, and enforcers known as Bards roam the country seeking out and punishing those who break this law. Shae, who lost her brother to the illness some years ago, finds herself turning to the Bards and the High House for answers when a second tragedy strikes, only to find out that she has powers of her own that might be the key to discovering the truth.
The world building was my favorite part about this book and it made for such an interesting setting, not to mention the magic system which was very different from anything I’ve read before. It definitely lays a very good foundation for both this book and the sequel. The story was fast paced and easy to follow, making it perfect for a binge read.
However, I felt like despite there being a lot of action and plot twists, not much of it was actually surprising or unexpected. It was exceedingly simple to predict the outline of the plot by the halfway point. The characters didn’t feel too well developed either and it was the story rather than the character arcs that held my interest throughout. Overall, this was a decent read and a nice start to the series that made me want to pick up the sequel immediately.
Publishing Date: October 6th, 2020 (Wednesday Books)
Veil (Hush #2) | Dylan Farrow (ARC)
Shae’s entire world has been turned upside down, and everything she’s ever believed is a lie. More determined than ever, she sets out to the mysterious land of Gondal – a place forbidden to mention and resigned to myth – in search of a dangerous magical book that could alter the fabric of the world.
Following the trail of Ravod, the boy she thought she knew and trusted, Shae discovers there is far more to the young man who stole the Book of Days than she ever realized. Together, with her friends, Mads and Fiona, and a newfound ally in her fierce former trainer, Kennan, Shae crosses the borders of the only home she’s ever had and into a world ruled not by magic, but technology and industry – one fraught with perils of its own.
In a world shrouded in lies, Shae is desperate for answers and to restore peace, but who will lift the veil?
After the shocking revelations at the end of Hush, Shae and her friends are on the run, making their way to Gondal. When they arrive, though it is the wondrous land of their myths, Gondal has dangers of its own, which are directly connected to Montaine’s future.
The lack of character development was still a downside in this book for me. On the other hand, the plot wasn’t as predictable in this book, and the more magical aspects of it assured that the twists were more effective this time around. That said, I read this book immediately after the first which is why the story was fresh in my mind. If I had picked up this sequel a year or two later, I doubt I would remember much at all, not only because book one didn’t stand out from a basic YA plot structure enough, but also because this book didn’t really have much of a recap of previous events.
Shae’s relationship with Ravod was possibly the most irritating thing in this book with all the back and forth when it was very obvious from a reader’s perspective what Ravod was up to. I had also hoped for more of an expansion on the magic system as well, but the addition of the Book of Days and the role it played was very intriguing.
This was an interesting series and I ended up enjoying it way more than I expected to, given the reviews I’d read of it. I would recommend it for YA fantasy fans, particularly younger readers who would probably like it much more.
Publishing Date: April 26th, 2022 (Wednesday Books)
Have you read any of these books or do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!