Publication Date: July 31, 2016
Kole and the Emberfolk have long protected Last Lake from the creatures that lurk in the dark. When a creature attacks it is like nothing they’ve seen before. The Emberfolk are convinced it’s a legendary evil that must be vanquished. Kole and his fellow warriors set out to fulfill the prophecy and defeat the dreaded Eastern Dark.
I received an advanced reader’s copy (ARC) of Valley of the Embers from the author in exchange for my review.
Valley of the Embers has the feeling of a creative writing class project. Simile heavy, Kelliher chooses lyricism over clarity in his tale of a mystic people with a weaponized, fire-starting ability. Though the concept of a protector race is an interesting one, Kelliher drips information about the Emberfolk that would have perhaps been used as a better world building tool in a short prologue. The novel starts with characters experiencing a sense of urgency in that they know something terrible is coming, but they don’t know where it will hit. That heart-pounding watchfulness becomes the hallmark of Kelliher’s work.
Kole Reyna, the protagonist of the piece, is a fully realized skeptic. He knows there is more in the world than he’ll ever understand, but he feels that his compatriots sometimes connect dots based on ancient stories instead of modern data. Despite his devil’s advocate position in the story, Kole is a team player with the good of the people he’s supposed to protect at his core. He realizes that the people his Emberfolk are charged with championing are losing their faith. In the initial battle in which Kole is injured, they start to evacuate. The job with which the Emberfolk are tasked is innate in them. Kole and his supporting cast are interesting to read and their motivations ring as true to the fantasy genre with an undercurrent of something more to say.
Perhaps because my young daughter is so in love with anime at the moment, Valley of the Embers called to mind the anime series Attack on Titan. The Japanese Manga focuses on a group of warriors charged with keeping their fellow townsfolk safe from the frequent Titan attacks. Ever watchful, the attacks can come from anywhere and while the antagonists know what the titans look like, they know little else about them beyond stories passed down. Like Eren and pals, action in Valley of the Embers happens at any time. Kelliher is a former fighter, and a sports and entertainment writer, so his fight scenes are visual. There is a time-worn elegance to the conflict in the work. Once the flowerly language and similies run thin, the beauty remains. With time, Kelliher’s ability to build tension and the knowledge of imminent danger carries the piece from a confused 3-star-rating to a solid 4-star with anticipation for the next in the series.
Valley of the Embers is a novel that takes time to engage the reader. The formality and lyricism is consistent throughout the piece but the greater knowledge of the Emberfolks and others in their world, gives readers a better understanding of the world built. If you like fantasy, just stick with this one. As first books go, Valley of the Embers is exceptionally well crafted and shows great promise for future outings by the author.
Read an excerpt and buy Valley of Embers by Steven Kelliher on