Hello, everyone! I am excited to bring you my review of Of Darkness and Light by Ryan Cahill. I was one of the lucky few who received a physical ARC of this book, which was super beautiful, and I have been eagerly awaiting my return to the world of Epheria ever since I finished book one back in mid-December. Now the only problem is I have to wait so long for book three!
Heroes will rise. Nations will fall.
Behind the towering walls of Belduar, Calen Bryer and his companions stand in defense of the city and its new king. In over a thousand years, Belduar has never fallen. It has stood as a bastion of hope. But the Lorian empire are at its walls once more, and the Dragonguard are coming.
In the North, with Faenir by her side, Calen’s sister Ella arrives at the port of Antiquar. She holds no fear of the unknown. She will see this through, no matter what – or who – gets in her way.
Meanwhile, at the embassy of the Circle of Magii in Al’Nasla, Rist Havel hones his newfound powers in preparation for the trials. Unbeknownst to Rist, he is being watched, measured, and judged. He was not taken into the Circle by chance. There is greatness in him. But great men can do terrible things.
As Lorian forces land on southern shores and Aeson Virandr’s letters of rebellion find their way to the right hands, only the Knights of Achyron see the true danger. The danger that stirs in the darkness. The coming shadow will not stop. It will consume all in its path. It wants for nothing but blood and fire.
***Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book! My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
This book was fantastic! I enjoyed the first book of this series. So, I expected to like this one too, but this one took things to an entirely different level of awesome. The writing, pacing, world-building, and characterization were all superb! I loved the way Cahill brought the battle scenes to life with vivid, gritty imagery that made me feel like I was in the middle of the action. I was a little worried at first about the chonky length of this book since I tend to lose focus with longer books pretty easily, but the worry was for nothing. The pacing of this book was intense and kept me absorbed by this story. I felt on edge from beginning to end, always wanting to know what would happen next.
The world-building in this book added so much awesome stuff to the pre-existing knowledge of Epheria and its history. The world of the dwarves was explored in greater detail and included some mysterious political intrigue to keep things engaging. The Knights of Achyron were utilized in a big way here, and I loved learning about them and getting a lot more Soul blade action than in the first book. Many of the characters traveled a lot during this book, which meant many new, interesting locales were explored, expanding the world considerably. I also really enjoyed getting to learn more about the Circle of Magii through the eyes of Rist. There was just so much new information included in this book it is impossible to do it justice in a review. Most importantly, all of it was introduced organically through the eyes of the characters, which kept things feeling exciting rather than seeming like a history/civics lesson.
My favorite thing about this book was the characters and the relationships forged in this story. There were so many characters and different POVs I honestly lost count of them all. This can often be confusing, but Cahill managed to pull it off spectacularly, and his masterful use of each of the POVs was a huge part of why the pacing of this book worked so well. My favorite characters from the first book, Calen and Rist, were still some of my favorites here, as well. Calen’s journey was a very difficult one, and he very quickly had to become a leader without knowing exactly how to do so. He struggled with it throughout the book, especially the guilt related to all the people who died in his name (and there was A LOT of death in this book…so, don’t get too attached to characters). He changed quite a bit from the dark things he experienced, but through it all he endured. His bond with Valerys grew substantially, and I really loved seeing the two of them grow together in navigating the difficult emotions they faced in response to everything that happened. Rist’s story was interesting despite being a smaller part of the book, and I’m now worried that he might end up on the wrong side of this war, which breaks my heart to think about. Although, he did fold the pages of his books instead of using bookmarks, which means he’s a monster in hiding anyway…right? Just kidding…though, not really.
I came to love so many other characters in this book too. I won’t be able to talk about all of them in this review, but I want to highlight a couple of the other storylines I really enjoyed. First, I absolutely adored Vaeril. I would die for that elf. Seriously. The growth of his friendship with Calen was absolute perfection to read. Second, the relationship between Farda and Ella surprised me because it added a level of depth to both characters that was somewhat lacking from the first book. It was an excellent example of the strength of the characterization in this novel and the skill of Cahill at writing the subtle dynamics of relationships.
Overall, this was a fantastic sequel. If you like epic fantasy, this is a series that is not to be missed. I’m excited to see where the series goes next, especially after all the cliffhangers this book ended on. The ending gave me chills (even if it was a bit predictable), and I can’t wait to see the ramifications of it. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and would rate it even higher if I could.