Chester, Deborah: Reign of Shadows (Ruby Throne I) (1996)

Cover art by Mary Jo Phallen
Cover art by Mary Jo Phallen

Lessons to be learned.

Every experience life throws at us teaches us a lesson. Sometimes those lessons are only applicable to ourselves and our own lives. For others the understanding they draw from their experiences might potentially affect a whole world. As the Ruby Throne trilogy is an epic fantasy, we expect the main characters to fall into the latter category. Epic fantasies have the tendency to make those lessons as harsh as possible for the age group intended.

For both Caelan and Elandra these life-lessons include deception, demon-magic, beatings and servitude. Elandra and Caelan withstand the horrors of their lives with the qualities that epic heroes have: honor, courage, stubbornness and an innate belief in the rightness of their intended actions. As usual, both make mistakes and suffer for those mistakes (when Caelan ignores the bell that one time too many).

We get to know Caelan best. I think about 2/3 of Reign of Shadows is about Caelan’s experiences at school, his experiences immediately after school and his experiences four years down the road. We get to know Elandra during her Cinderella period and while staying with the Penestricans.

Indications of their challenges come through Caelan’s meeting with the haggai and Elandra’s encounters with Hecati. Both serve to introduce us to the baddies of the empire of Emperor Kostimon. The biggest baddies of them all are Lord Beloth and Lady Mael (evil deities bound by the good gods). Neither haggai, Hecati, Lord Beloth nor Lady Mael are creatures/people/deities one wishes to encounter. Unless you are into that sort of thing of course. And some of the people we meet in the novel are into some or all of these creatures.

I enjoyed Deborah Chester’s writing. She kept me interested throughout Reign of Shadows. Her take on epic fantasy was fun and age appropriate. Although  some of the violence was harsh, it wasn’t gory. Reading Reign of Shadows I knew that down the road something would have to happen between Caelan and Elandra but exactly what wasn’t given. After all, Caelan’s and Elandra’s places in society were moons apart when the novel ended.

It has been many years since I read this trilogy the first time, but I believe I enjoyed it as much now as I did then.


  • Series: Ruby Throne
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition (January 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441011667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441011667

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