Friday, April 04, 2008

Review: _A Dark Sacrifice_ by Madeline Howard

Some middle books of trilogies suffer from little movement of the story forward. These books sometimes put readers off from boredom. A Dark Sacrifice by Madeline Howard is the second book of the “Rune on Unmaking” trilogy. This book does not suffer from middle book stagnation. The story moves forward through setting, characters and plot.

First, the well developed setting moves the story forward. The world of the novel contains large islands with different cultures. These different islands are connected by ships sailing the vast oceans full of dangerous creatures. Different cultures developed on the islands due to the distances between islands. The setting of this world has a rich past of fallen empires and insidious magics. There are frightening creatures and strange magical systems. Ms. Howard weaves all these elements into a powerful setting that remains vivid throughout the book.

Next, the characters with their problems move the story forward as they try to solve problems. Sinderian is a powerful healing mage with doubts about her strength. She constantly struggles with herself to not be helpless or arrogant. Ruan, who travels with Sinderian, must deal with his heritage from two disparate cultures. He dislikes his mother’s people, distrusting them because they do not accept him with his half blood heritage. Winloki is a young princess destined to fulfill a prophecy. She is torn by her ignorance of the past and the kindness of her captors. Even the empress, Ouriana, has problems with an old enemy who opposes her and she is an unwitting dupe of the forces using her. Ms. Howard develops interesting, three-dimensional characters that keep the story moving forward.

Lastly, a focused plot moves the second book forward to an exciting climax. The book begins with Sinderian and Ruan trying to find Winloki. They travel to a fortress under siege by dark forces. Finding out that Camhoinhann, Ouriana’s high priest, has taken Winloki captive, they pursue the captors joined by Prince Kivik and Skerry. Meanwhile, Winloki travels with her captors and discovers herself sympathizing with them. Sinderian travels with her companions carrying a dark secret plan to save Winloki. These plot threads weave together for a good story. Ms. Howard writes with vivid images and a tight plot that leads to an thrilling climax and cliffhanger.

A Dark Sacrifice by Madeline Howard is an stimulating middle book in the trilogy. Setting, characters and plot blend together smoothly to advance the story of the “Rune of Unmaking” trilogy. The book does not suffer from middle book stagnation. A nice cliffhanger leaves readers eagerly waiting for the next book in the series.

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