body gore / gruesome deaths, war, violence, animal injury
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Lori M. Lee and Page Street for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
As you may have seen from my review of Forest of Souls, I already loved this story to begin with. I knew I was going to like the rest of the trilogy, and I wasn’t wrong. If anything, I may have loved Broken Web more!
The aftermath of the final few chapters of Forest of Souls finds Sirscha and Saengo traveling to the Empire of Nuvalyn with some escorts, since everyone believes that she is a soulguide – a kind of lightwender that hasn’t been seen since the founder of the Empire. According to prophecy, a soulguide is supposed to save the world from the Soulless and the Dark Wood, that threatens to expand and take over the lands of Thiy. Nobody would be safe if this happened, and yet until now there has been no way of completely destroying the Soulless. Sure, Ronin the Spider King may have kept the Dead Wood at bay for centuries, but… yeah that’s not happening anymore.
Sirscha is on a quest to correct her grievous mistake, one that she didn’t anticipate would lead to such terrible results. If she thought Ronin was a formidable foe, well she hasn’t experienced the Soulless at full strength. Now that he’s awake, who knows how long it will take for him to regain his powers and finish what he started all those years ago. As she and Saengo try to find more information on the Soulless, how to destroy him, who or what his familiar is, Sirscha comes to terms with the fact that history has been lying to everyone. Or rather, the victors of ancient battles past have changed the script to better suit their needs and image. Why are soulrenders thought to be so evil that they are killed on sight? Why is it that there’s only two left of them in the world now? How did soulrenders gain so much power when in ancient times, they were considered weak?
The political games that occur during this book get more involved and dangerous as the world sees that Queen Meilyr is prepared to start an all out war to get what she wants, even if it means destroying the Nuvalyn Empire and the Kazahyn clans. What allies could she have to help her achieve such a feat, when Evewyn is so much smaller than either of those two kingdoms? Will Nuvalyn and Kazahyn be able to somehow work together when their kingdoms have been hostile towards one another since forever? Dealings in the court between House Yaelang of the Nuvalyn Empire, and Hlau Theyen of Kazahyn is just one small aspect of what goes on off the battlefield and in the throes of the nobility. Despite Sirscha and Saengo not wanting to get involved, less the news that she’s actually a soulrender gets out, they do what they can to keep a low profile and move towards the next step.
I liked seeing the strategies that our characters came up with to deal with this dreadful situation, seeing some characters working together that I didn’t think would. From their war rooms to the actual battles, it’s so quick to see how something that looks great on paper may not be perfect once it actually needs to get done.
The relationship between Sirscha and Saengo also starts to change a bit, with Sirscha feeling even more guilt about what she did to Saengo and her future. Their loyalty for one another is strong to a fault, and never once has this been in question between them. But will that stick now that their dynamics changed from partners to shaman-familiar? With disturbing messages getting into Sirscha’s mind, doubt ends up clouding her judgement and it’s only a matter of time before these thoughts come to light. For better or for worse, these two have each others backs… for now. I personally don’t see their relationship turning sour because of how tight-knitted they have been from the beginning. From the way that Lee shows us their bond after going through some of the worst things in the world for them, to me there’s just no way that their bond is going to weaken. That’s just me though, me being hopeful that this bond sticks together no matter what.
The action in this book was great. Everything felt well-paced, and nothing lagged to me. I mean, I couldn’t put the book down even though I needed to sleep! It’s the same way I felt when I was first reading Forest of Souls and I’m so glad that this feeling stuck with me in this sequel as well. Lee has a way of keeping you engaged from beginning to end, from the action scenes to the ones more emotional and subdued. Once you start it, you’ll have to finish it. And by the time you do finish it, you’re going to be wondering where the next book is. I know that’s how I feel, because that ending left me SHOOKETH.
I’m so glad that we got to see Prince Meilek and Hlau Theyen again in this novel. I feel like we got to see them a little bit more, and see how they all work together as a team. Are they able to trust one another with their secrets? Can Prince Meilek find a strong alliance between the empire and the clans in order to stop his sister’s madness? Is Theyen really a friend to Sirscha, or no? Those additional relationships get to be fleshed out and explored in this one, especially since they are traveling a lot more in this novel. There’s not that sense of wanting to avoid one another in the castle halls out of dislike or distaste. Now, there are more important things at hand where they will need to interact, whether they like it or not. These were some of my favorite parts of the book, and I’m glad that Lee included them a lot more in this novel. I especially liked seeing more of Prince Meilek since we didn’t see much of him in the first novel.
I feel like I went around in circles with this review, especially since I didn’t want to spoil a lot of what I read. A lot of my “oh snap!” moments came from these spoilers, so you’ll just have to experience it for yourselves. I’m scared to see what’s to come in the last novel, but I’m so glad that I was able to join Sirscha through this journey. I’m so glad that Sirscha was finally able to see that, even if she didn’t grow up with a family, she ended up finding one of her own, one that she will protect at all costs. It may not have been with people she expected, but it works nonetheless.
Oh and getting to know some of the backstory of what happened during the time of the Soulless was great too! That’s all I have to say about that.