Domain of Illusion by EA Sunden

Domain of Illusion book cover
Rating 7.0/10
Domain of Illusion is a well paced, pleasing story.

Twilight’s sombre grace echoed softly through the grief-stricken Valley of Tsura. Not long after the loving burial of the beautiful Empress Zaiya, the valley was struck down in disbelief once more by the brutal slaying of her benevolent father-in-law, the High Emperor. A sharpened blade covered with fresh blood and an empty vial of poison coldly lingered beside his lifeless corpse. After the disappearance of the High Emperor’s eldest son, who was also the husband of Empress Zaiya and father of their precious newborn Naora, the dire matter fell to the High Emperor’s other sons Emperors Arel and Kozai to guide and protect their young niece. But with the power of the grave constantly calling out to them, the Emperors must fight to unveil the secret evil that threatens not only to claim the life of little Naora, but also complete domination over the Valley of Tsura.

E.A. Sunden has earned her B.A. in Health and Fitness and Health Promotion from Purdue University. She has also taken graduate courses in Health Counselling and Persuasion Theory. Her next novel will be the compelling sequel to Domain of Illusion.

Domain of Illusion is something a little different. It has the novel concept of shared power; gone is the single all-powerful ruler and in its place a group of emperors and empresses that govern their land in union. I found the style and narrative used to be reminiscent of Stephen Donaldson; the smoke monster in particular put me in mind of the evil Lord Foul. Sunden is, however, not as verbose as Donaldson with the prose being in the main neat and clinical. The excerpt below is a description of the smoke monster by a villager local to the valley:

“Still, there is another danger in the forest.” Onika said. “Many claim to have also seen a large creature made entirely of smoke. Its angry orange eyes bulge out from the smoke as its fangs lash out at the unwary.”
Domain of Illusion: Chapter Five - Tales from the Flames

The world building (maybe valley building would be more applicable) was good, the locations nicely described. Using a smaller, contained base from which to launch a fantasy tale is a much underused skill; authors tend to be keen to feature epic world locations with the inevitable travelling, quest, fight etc… This style of book really allows for the building of a more detailed and homely location that the reader can easily identify with and become part of.

It is important that, if an author leaves many things unexplained at the beginning of a book, that they begin to explain and clear things up as they go along. Not all questions need to be answered but it important that when the last page is turned there is at least some degree of understanding of the story. This is managed well in Domain of Illusion and the narrative begins to form into a nicely paced, enjoyable story. Then, as the story nears its climax, the story turns into a mysterious whodunit that leaves the reader guessing up until almost the end. There is also an exciting chapter as our heroes transverse their way through a temple full of hidden traps and dangers:

“The next three blades fell in rapid succession. Skilfully dodging forwards once more, Naora was again able to avoid peril as she was pushed further into the maze. Once the dust settled, she returned warily to her feet and looked upon the mirror-like blades.”
Domain of Illusion: Chapter Eleven – Noc-Luma

Domain of Illusion is at heart a story of redemption. It features strong female characters and is set within a magical, medieval-style valley. The ending is perhaps the one area in which the book doesn’t quite work; there is no better tale than that of redemption but the character in question must be deserving of that forgiveness. The problem here is that the crimes and the treachery are just too severe; this is no Ebenezer Scrooge, guilty only of a miserly attitude and an aversion to festivities, this is a cold-blooded killer of men, women and children who has made the lives of the people of the valley a misery for many, many years. The reader may find it difficult to agree with how this is handled. Aside from this though there are a lot of plus points; the narrative, characterisation and settings are all very capably written and Domain of Illusion is a well paced, pleasing story.

E.A. Sunden has earned her B.A. in Health and Fitness and Health Promotion from Purdue University. She has also taken graduate courses in Health Counselling and Persuasion Theory. Her next novel will be the compelling sequel to Domain of Illusion.

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