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Valley of Sorrows (Tower of Bones) (Volume 3) Paperback – April 14, 2016
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About the Author
Connie J. Jasperson lives in Olympia, Washington. A vegan, she and her husband share five children, a love of good food, and great music. She is active in local writing groups, an editor, and is a writing coach. She is an active member of the both the Northwest Independent Writers Association and Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and is a founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group. Music and food dominate her waking moments. When not writing or blogging she can be found with her Kindle, reading avidly.
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We join our hero Edwin Farmer, with John (his dad) and Friedr and Zan, also mages from the Temple of Aeos. The comrades are creating a magical barrier to seal off the valley that the Bull God, Tauron, rules. The first half of the book focuses on this mission, with the main protagonist D' Mal, as a side story. It becomes evident that Edwin, whilst clearly dedicated to the mission, is almost using it to avoid returning to the troubles in his home life. The resolution of those and the return home for the friends forms the latter part of this instalment.
The strength of this work, as with the prior books, is the intricacy and detail in the use of magic. Jasperson spends a fair bit of time explaining how the mages create the barrier, how they battle, and indeed how magic has become a necessary part of their day to day life. The characters use magic to help calm stress, to manage emotional as well as physical conflict and to me this felt wonderfully plausible. There's an intelligence to how it is utilised, rather than in a pseudo-RPG fashion, it is used like technology would be.
The world-building around the story is also strong- there is a good sense of history, and of how characters such as John have a back story yet to be revealed. The cultures seem populated by real people and organisation rather than being there solely to facilitate the conflict, and we have nice touches like 'good' minotaurs to throw a skew on stereotypes.
As alluded to above, this book is an instalment in an ongoing saga. There are certainly resolutions of sub-plots, and Edwin's tragedy with his wife, Marya, is probably the key plot through this book. Many other aspects are evolving sub-plots, and several scenes and characters are setting up for the finale. Specifically D'Mal and Lourdan get some action, but for D'Mal not as much character evolution as I'd have liked.
One critique of prior books has been the style of dialogue utilised. Through the four books it's certainly become less formal and verbose, and the balance is good here. Edwin and his friends, probably by virtue of their status in the temple, are astonishingly civil in their interactions and this might frustrate some who are more used to the grittier potty mouths of darker fantasy. I was quite happy with it, although at times I wanted a bit more friction between the comrades to reflect their differing personas, and maybe a touch more spite in the interactions of the bad guys!
As noted, this isn't dark fantasy, although it deals with adult topics of human sacrifice, mind control, miscarriage, and predestination. Fans of Eddings, Le Guin and Brooks would enjoy it's style and positivity and, being a fan of such writers, I'm firmly in the fanbase for this series.