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The Fortress of Gold (The Ballard Chronicles) (Volume 2) Paperback – October 14, 2016
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Aislin Ballard is one of my favorite characters in any of the thousands of books I've read. She's strong for a 13yr old girl, but not unrealistically so. There is exceptional depth of character with the optimism and vulnerability of a young woman. I think the author nailed the struggle of her youth in an adventuring party perfectly.
One of the things I liked about this book is how Stephen Nowland highlighted the resiliency and determination of human spirit even in the worst of times. One of the author's strengths, which I've noted in previous reviews is that he allows the women to be strong, but not lose their femininity. The women occasionally need saving, but no more than the men. If anything, the men need more saving than the women.
Once character I'd really like to see more of Jaz. She's an awesome character, my favorite in this series I think, but it felt like her personality wasn't allowed to blossom and show through quite as much in this book. She did a lot of things, but it seemed largely in the background. Everyone else in the group shone, especially Madelyn.
I love the steampunk feel of the Kurhain civilization, especially with the muttonchops and mustaches. Major Maximilian Strauss is a superb character who brings a new dimension to the story. Switching back and forth between him and Aislin was a perfect touch. It was hard to root for him when his country was the one causing so much trouble for Aislin's group!
I can't wait to see where this group goes. The hints Stephen Nowland put forward for future books are maddening. I want to know what happened to ***! I'm glad *** is back with ***. I know the Blue Man is going to come back, but will he bring his group with him?. I'm really worried for ***.
With most Indie Authors, you have to watch for spelling and grammar issues. Not so with these books. They are a professional quality and well edited. There are no wasted words or scenes. Everything advances the story in a way that you stop hearing the author's voice.
Book 3 is due out soon and I'll review it shortly thereafter!
Those of us who have been following the adventures of Ailunders since the first Neverwinter Nights modules so many years ago will feel warm and fuzzy as the 2nd generation of heroes continue their trek toward self-discovery and redemption. Those who are new to Nowland's work should read at least the Fortress of Gold before starting this book or else the characters and their development will make no sense to the reader.