ARC provided to me by author Steven Kelliher in exchange for an honest review.
“It’s time we took control of our destiny rather than waiting for the ghost of a dead king to point us in the wrong direction.”
Valley of Embers is a great debut and a fantastic start to a new high fantasy that surrounds many characters that reside in a village that is being continually attacked by the dark kind, which are essentially demons being let in from The World Apart. Many of the people in this village used to live in the desert, until a Sage came and tried to enslave them. When this attempt happened, the Embers fled the desert into this valley and made it so nothing else could enter, but also this made it so nothing else could leave.
Some of the people in this world develop magical talents that are respectful of where they originated. Faeykin, from the forests in the valley, can heal, Rockbled, from more mountain-like terrain, are able to lift heavy stone and have thicker skin, and Emberfolk, from the desert, harness fire and flame and have some pretty impressive weapons to show for it. Unfortunately, since the Emberfolk fled, they are no longer close to their fire making power, so the children have become fewer and fewer to develop the magic.
Our main protagonist, Kole, is one of the last Embers to have sparked. He’s a very strong character, who is very well liked among his village, but he is harboring sadness ever since his mother died. His mother died looking for a Sage, the White Crest, that was fabled to have helped the village once before with the impending demons. Now, it might be time for others in the village to go looking for answers, since the demons are getting harder and harder to keep at bay.
“I don’t pretend to know what the White Crest once was to the Emberfolk, the Rivermen or the Faey. I know what he is now. Whatever’s left of him, that is. He is not our protector. He is our jailer. Now, our executioner.”
Also, the Sages in this world are magical people who are just constantly fighting with one another and will use the people of the valley to fight for them. The biggest and baddest sage, the Eastern Dark, might put an end to the valley once and for all if nothing changes.
“The Dark Kind had no ears for mercy and no hearts for forgiveness.”
And speaking of people who are going looking for Sages, the other main point of view is Linn, a girl that has grown up with Kole her whole life. Now, I don’t want to fangirl too hard here, but I loved Linn so much. I loved how she was reckless, and did what her heart told her was the right thing to do. I loved that she didn’t wait, I loved that she took action, and I love that she never gave up, no matter how dark her journey got. I was living for Linn’s chapters, and I seriously need more of her.
This story mostly focuses on the people from one village, Last Lake, but towards the end we also get to focus in a little bit on someone from a surrounding village, Hearth. I very much expect this world and these villages to be expanded on more in The Emerald Blade, and I have nothing but high hopes for it
I know I made this story seem pretty simple, but I promise you this story is the exact opposite. Steven Kelliher for sure believes in showing rather than telling. The world building is fantastic, but it’s very unforgiving. There is absolutely no info dumping, and I found myself constantly making notes, while trying to picture everything in my head. I can see this being not an easy read for many, but if you take the time I think it is a pretty rewarding story.
Also, this book is very, very, very focused on the non-stop plot and the world, which is amazing, but you guys know how much my heart belongs to character focused and driven stories. This is something the story did lack, and it is what is essentially holding me back from giving this five stars. I also had a hard time believing the characters. Like, the author would tell us how a character was, but I constantly had trouble believing that was how the character actually is, if that makes sense. Like, “so and so is angry” but they never really did anything to make me believe they were angry. This is just my preference to stories, but I feel it is important to note.
My favorite thing about this book is how we get to see all the different groups of people view the same exact thing differently. I think there is so much beauty in that, and I absolutely loved it. Also, Steven Kelliher’s MMA background shines through, because every fighting scene in this book is expertly done and will leave you completely breathless.
Valley of Embers is a self published work that I have nothing but high hopes for. Steven Kelliher really impressed me, and if you’re looking for an action filled, nonstop adventure that features some pretty phenomenal warriors, then please look no further and support this indie book.
“If the Dark Months were a time of war then the dawn was a time of preparation.”