Spirit of Fire by Stephen Zimmer
Review by Daniel Cann
Battered by a massive invasion force from Gallea, the tribal people of the Five Realms and their Midragardan allies are being driven eastward, towards the sea, while the Saxan lines are wearing down ever thinner on the Plains of Athelney. Time is running out quickly, as an ancient creature of legend soars through the skies with a brave young Saxan. They carry the desperate hopes of two realms sorely beset by a voracious enemy. Diabolic entities conduct a great hunt, as a malignant darkness deepens across all of Ave. The exiles from another world must gain refuge, or find themselves ensnared by the long reach of the Unifier.
The third entry in the Fires in Eden series finds the otherworlders becoming increasingly involved with the struggle for Ave. We, the reader also learn much more about the geography, history and mythology of Ave.
What I particularly enjoyed about this one is that we are finally moving into a faster gear. The story flows much better; there are still some overly long and unnecessary descriptions: for example what characters are wearing, which I feel slows things down and another pet peeve is the word ‘timbre’ gets repeated far too much for my liking. But in a novel this epic to have just two (minor) criticisms is no mean feat.
This feels like a more assured novel and I enjoyed picking up the strands of where we last left characters like Dragol, the Wanderer, the otherworlders and the Saxans.
It was a welcome relief to read about new characters as well like the young boy Thomas, a native of the city of Avalos and the son of a weaver. Zimmer is particularly adept at showing the impact of the war on the ‘little people’ of his world rather than just focusing on the generals and their armies. This makes the reader have far more empathy for the inhabitants of this previously peaceful world.
We see people farming, fishing and building and generally enjoying a free and peaceful existence, however, thanks to the Unifer, who we learn is merely the spearhead of something much bigger this existence is under terrible threat.
Crucially we finally get to learn more about the Unifier. As I previously suspected he is not all that he initially seems. Outwardly courteous and charming he is in fact malevolent and hiding very sinister designs.. After reading this novel you will be left in no doubt about his true motives.
There are many other characters like Brynhild and some Grand Council members who make brief appearances here but are sure to feature heavily in later instalments.
So, the foundation was laid with the first book, the second saw more development and this third one finally sees things moving much faster. You sense the desperation and anxiety of everyone. There are some harrowing scenes where innocents get caught up in the war. There are also uplifting and unexpected moments as well, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
Ultimately, this is the strongest entry in the series so far and if Zimmer can learn to trust his audiences to fill in the gaps and use their imaginations more often, he will produce much tauter, sharper and streamlined adventures. This is another highly engaging and entertaining epic and you can see the upward trajectory of the series in terms of quality. The only sad thing is I have a twelve month wait for the fourth one!
Published 2012 by Seventh Star Press
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