on April 9, 2012
Adventure. Intrigue. Danger. Bloodand Brine: Book Three in the Ascendancy Trilogy is Caprice Hokstad's exciting conclusion to her fantasy series.
The action involving a plague upon the land, and a new navy for our hero Duke Vahn, is centered in the choicest of the 12 Kingdoms of Byntar: Latoph, ruled by Vahn's twin brother Arx. Twin brothers fit this land of dualities that features twin moons and suns, races, and twin continents. You can learn more about the fascinating world of Byntar at this very helpful site: [...]
The setting of Blood and Brine is the jewel of the series. The rich and detailed description of Latoph--its society (customs, dress, speech), its geography, and its place in time and space--is reminiscent of the world Tolkien wrote about. The biggest difference between Middle Earth and Byntar is races. The countries in Hokstad's world are inhabited by only two human races, the Elva and the Itzi.
The time frame that the Ascendancy Triology is set is akin to the medieval/ renaissance periods. There is no magic, but there are mages, who study the Elva Heavenlies, or the Itzi Nymphs. The will of God is worked out through these mages, and it is up to individuals to follow their wisdom. Here, Hokstad speaks of a plague upon Byntar: But the mages brought the cure. Archmage Raedan and Mage Kado of Jintae had visions. The Heavenlies and Nymphs are the ones to thank.
Hokstad shows off literary skill, with lines like: She beckoned with a curled finger. When she says: The headmaster donned his bravery like a helmet you feel the character's bravery donned like armor, protecting him.
Hokstad does a good job explaining most everything from the earlier fiction, so although this is a book three, anyone could pick it up and enjoy the story--even read Blood and Brine first and then the earlier books. There was only one stumbling point: it may be a challenge for readers to recall the koopchuck in order to understand its role, albeit small, in one of the story's major obstacles.
While Blood and Brine is Book Three of a trilogy, I do hope to see more Latoph fiction, set, say twenty or thirty years down the road, when the children are grown and taking over power from Duke Vahn. There is a lingering prophecy about Vahn's yet-to-be-born son that would make for a good spin-off book. Hokstad has set the course of the country so it is in a real period of reform, or renaissance. Science is poised to take off, and it would be great to revisit Latoph in the next generation and see how the place has progressed.
Overall, Caprice Hokstad has penned a worthy conclusion to the Ascendancy Triology. The action is Machiavellian, and the good guys must be sharp to stay one step ahead of treachery. Blood and Brine will entertain, and should win many new readers to the world of Byntar.
on April 6, 2013
The planet is called Byntar. Though not stated, it probably lies somewhere in the Gemini Constellation because it is a world of twin suns, twin moons, two continents, only two races, and the frightening compelling tale of tormented twin brothers. The inhabitants of Byntar are composed of just two races. No confusion here, you're either one or the other. The Elva and Itzi and from just looking at the names, one is definitely superior to the other. The Itzi are peaceful, hardworking, isolationalist Amish type, while the Elva would be the sons or daughters produced from a union between Subcommander T'Pol and Lagolas. There are no starships, hovercraft, blasters or pulse cannons. The setting is very similar to the renaissance time frame on Earth, though a few of the industries are rather advanced compared to Earth's medieval times. Byntar lacks electricity and combustion engines; the people are ingenious, using wind and water to turn mills. Production maybe slower, but quality is always handmade pride. The planet also lacks the elements to create gunpowder so the creation of cannons and muskets would never come into existence. Probably a plus until a more devious evil comes down to meddle in the affairs of those planetside. One might expect a planet rooted in a medieval time frame would have an overabundance of magic crisscrossing the world from one end to the other; but those readers looking for spells, incantations, and pure fire-blasting sorcery, this is not for you. Simply put, magic does not exist Byntar. Yes, there are mages whose task is to study the Elva Heavenlies and the Itzi Nymphs to hear the voice of God and do His will, which usually involves passing this wisdom on to individuals in the flow of future events and current circumstances. Magic, sorry doesn't exist here either. Slavery is common place on this world.
Blood and Brine is a story of the unseen. What you can't see just might kill you! Beyond the obvious there is a reason, both sinister and divine. It is also a tale of war, betrayal, plague and sorrow. "Never trust anyone who wants what you've got. Friend or no, envy is an overwhelming emotion." -- Eubie Blake. Blake's quote fits very well the shaping of things in Caprice Hokstad's final novel in her Ascendancy Trilogy. Trust is an issue between King Arx of Latoph and his twin brother, Duke Vahn. Trust is often like a vapor, illusive and hard to see, even in plain sight. So it is for Duke Vahn as he wrestles with things he only thought were shadows from a tangled past. Things we fear the most often arise to scare us back into reality. There are also others who have their own agendas and are carefully working in the background manipulating events.
Things move a little too fast in this book. Itzi slaves are massacred in one chapter and then we move swiftly into the rescue of Duke Vahn's young son from his father in law, Pendo, king of Ganluc. Once back at Rebono Keep at Ny the reader is thrust in the middle of building a navy. Also, the slavery issue here is somewhat confusing. The Note on Byntarian Culture states that slavery is prohibited to children under ten. The question arises, if one is born to slaves, wouldn't that make that child a slave also. It would also seem that slave names are always lower case, which at the start leaves one with the feeling these are typos missed by the editorial staff. After all proper names are capitalized. All in all Blood and Brine is a very good story, yet a little more in-depth description of situations would have made it a richer story. -- Billi Caye