A lot of times, the second book in a series proves to be a letdown and isn’t nearly as exciting or captivating as the first one. But The Crowns of Silver & Ash Book II: The Seven Plagues proved to be just as much of a fantasy lover’s dream book as the first book in the series. The characters, whether human or not, pull you into the story.
Bildgermuck and those fighting with him are still trying to restore peace to the seven cities and their inhabitants as well as to bring back their freedom to sing without fear of being killed.
Book one’s title focused on the seven stars, called the seven plagues by the Sons. The seven stars are described in the below chorus of a song.
Blade of Fire, Crown of Light,
Helm of Heroes, Ring of Might,
Shield of Princes, Mitts of Skill,
Hauberk hexed by witch’s will,
From nigh and far, the Seven Stars
Redeemers of the Light!
Each of the “stars” holds a magical power of some kind. Anyone in possession of just one of them has quite an advantage.
The cruel Sons have taken captive 700 children. Edlyn cares for these children as though she were their foster mother. She and the seven hundred in her foster care had heard it all – the ring of swords, the clank of armor, the shrill screams of the fallen and the beasts who bore them. The Sons have wicked plans for these children. They remind me of terrorists who strap their own children with bombs or put them on the front lines of battle. Is this how they use them? No, but what they do is just as horrifying. But really, would we expect the Sons to do anything nice for them?
Edlyn is gifted a silver ring, the Ring of Might, by one of her captors. If she can make it to the Cikts, this will make it easier for them to defeat the Sons. The Sons have already been slowed down by poisoned water and by Death’s Breath, a spice that if inhaled will knock you senseless.
Then there is Bildgermuck, who is still my favorite character. Dalla had gifted him a dulcimer when they left her home. To comfort himself, he would pluck its strings while attempting to figure out how to play it. The sound it produced wasn’t much comfort to those around him though.
By the way, the Sons hated music so much that they hunted down a song of bards (I thought song was an appropriate collective noun for bards) and slaughtered them. Actually, they would kill any bard they happened to come across. This was not a good time to discover that you had a love for singing or playing music.
Bildgermuck and his faithful hound leave the fight to return home to Westbury Marsh to his family. When signs that the Sons are approaching his home village appear, he does his best to save all the dhoglers who live there by warning them of the Sons’ ways. They don’t appear to be taking him seriously, so when he leaves, it is with a sadness that he might never see them again.
What about creatures? Bildgermuck, a fantastic creature himself, is able to communicate with the bird he rescued in the first book, as well as with other birds. Later in the book, he calls out to an eagle to come to him and asks a favor of him. And, of course, Eadwina, the Empress of Mice, brings news to him.
The most dangerous creature of all is Nathdracck the World Eater, the wretched Lendwyrm. This dragon, for whom an adult cow is just a snack, is bribed by the enemy to fight with them. With her unending appetite and ability to breathe fire, her alliance with the Sons gives them power.
You will not be disappointed with the extremely satisfying end the author has for this story. This is a book that you don’t want to miss, especially if you have read the first in the series. While reading this story full of music, ferocious battles, fantastic creatures, and love—yes, love—you will be astounded at the bravery of some and shake your head at the cowardice of others. If a character you’ve grown to love meets death, you will most likely shed some tears.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you would like to purchase your own copy of this epic fantasy, I have provided an Amazon link below.
Amazon Link: Crowns of Silver & Ash: Book II: The Seven Plagues
The Songs Behind the Songs – Guest Post by Joshua Hampton
Crowns of Silver & Ash: Book I: The Seven Stars – a Review
Joshua Hampton interview – Outlines, Medieval Dialogue, and Music
Unfamiliar Meanings and Mispronunciations of Words
The colorful corpses of wrens, robins, doves and more were a morbid mosaic of feathers and flesh that rose up behind The Silver King like a banner of his madness.
The rains of sixty Kings’ Years had washed it all down from the slope, and at the bottom, it collected like a heap of sucked-clean dinner scraps outside a dragon’s den.
But he was learning from the Men he once had so admired, promises are as brittle as dead leaves beneath the feet.
He could smell them on the air, taste their blood in the mist.
But what most took for an angry oration that begged their leaving, Ansleth took as a lonely lament—a sad and weeping song for all things lost and all things soon to be.
New Words Learned:
arbalist – one who shot a
besagew – For this definition, I’m going to send you to Wikipedia.
brume – mist or fog
dwale – deadly nightshade
empyrean – the visible heavens
fleabane – fleas
hiccough – hiccup
japed– jested, joked
mawneye – The link below will take you to a recipe for mawneye, a medieval stew.
moil – toil
plash – a pool or puddle
skald – a bard or minstrel
About the Author:
By day, Joshua Hampton is a mild-mannered associate creative director for an advertising agency. By night, he’s a fantasy writer who finds his muse in everything from Anglo-Saxon epic poetry to French New Wave cinema. His fantasy work has been featured in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Mirror Dance, and Aphelion, among others. He is also writer and editor for the English football club Chelsea FC’s stateside newsletter. For more about his work, visit www.JoshuaHampton.com.