Phoenix in Shadow (2) (Balanced Sword) Paperback – May 5, 2015
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|Paperback, May 5, 2015||
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On the surface, _Phoenix in Shadow_ is a fairly lighthearted book, despite the serious situation and backstory. The three protagonists - Kyri Vantage, the Phoenix Justiciar of Myrionar, Tobimar Silverun, Seventh Prince of Skysand, and Poplock Duckweed, Intelligent Toad adventurer - are clever, skilled, and motivated, but also still young and relatively inexperienced. The personal interplay - and occasional personal stumbles - are a big part of what first draws a reader into the book.
There's an old story about putting a frog into a pot of cool water and slowly heating it - supposedly, if done gradually enough the frog never notices its peril until the water is boiling. Though the book starts at an apparent high point - in the middle of deadly combat! - our heroes soon fight their way into the more peaceful, nearly idyllic, realm that may be the ancient homeland of Tobimar's people. But can this place really be as idyllic as it seems? Where are the deformed monsters that spill through Rivendream Pass to threaten Kyri's homeland coming from? Why do they detect occasional flashes of wrongness from the Unity guard, and who else does it remind them of? What is the connection between the threats in Moonshade Hollow and the power behind Thornfalcon and the other false Justiciars? Who can they trust? And how does the situation on Moonshade Hollow tie in with increasingly dire situation in the outside world?
Ryk manages something of a hat-trick here, with the middle book of his Balanced Sword trilogy - he ties into (and grows logically from) the events of the first book, Phoenix Rising. He provides a complete and satisfying story that ends on a high note and answers many questions. And he manages to leave the most important (and ominous) mysteries unanswered to make us wish that the third book was already out so we could learn the answers.
Only issue I'd really have is the resolution via Deus ex machina (sorry for the minor spoiler there) and even that's handled well.
For anyone who enjoys a fantasy with some decent depth that doesn't require a cast of hundreds to accomplish.