Just a reminder. The Ruby Throne trilogy is a serial and, therefore, the individual installments need to be read in order.
Why do we do the things we do in life? My personal opinion is that the system of propaganda we grow up with focuses our attention on some matters and away from others. Pleasantville becomes a constant state for us rather than a place to visit when we need to rest from reality. When two systems meet, dissonance arises and our minds and bodies begin the fight of where we are going to end up.
For Caelan and Elandra that end stop was a place where they chose to confront their veils and try to strip some of them away. The tools they have utilized thus far on their journey through life are no longer adequate and must be exchanged for others that will cause more pain in the short run. Growing pains, I believe such hurt is called.
On the journey through the hidden ways Caelan makes Elandra drink her cup of veiling while he chooses to see the world of Lord Beloth for what it is. But as their journey together through the kingdom of Beloth continues Elandra fights her veil and comes through choosing to see what is rather than hide from it. For both of them the truth is frightening but at least both of them finally have the opportunity of seeing what is.
Who survives and who dies is something you will have to discover for yourself.
Shadow War is book no 2 of the Ruby Throne trilogy. You need to read Reign of Shadows first in order to get the necessary back story.
The Ruby Throne trilogy is assuredly a “hero’s tale”. For the hero to evolve, certain trials must be survived. Life-threatening lessons always seem to be par for the course. By the time Shadow War begins both Caelan and Elandra have survived their share of difficulties and are about to face even more danger. As with Reign of Shadows neither has met the other person yet, although Caelan has heard of Elandra.
Elandra’s half-sister Bixia has disappeared completely. After her passionate threat of destroying Elandra, I had thought that we would see her again. All we get as a reminder of Elandra’s old life is a scene between Hecati and Elandra.
Caelan is now the property of Prince Tirhin.
Elandra is on her way to becoming Empress Sovereign.
Although their lives are incredibly different, there is one strong similarity. Both Elandra and Caelan depend upon another person’s approval to stay alive. Both Caelan and Elandra admire their captors yet worry about the control their rulers have over their lives.
For Elandra there is real hope of gaining some control. Kostimon is training her to take on the duties and privileges of Empress Sovereign so that he need not rule alone during his last years alive. Whether he actually means to go through with this has yet to be seen.
Caelan admires Prince Tirhin and thinks the prince holds him in special regard. Perhaps this regard is great enough that Caelan might win his freedom. But lets face it. As long as Caelan holds more value to Prince Tirhin as a slave, that is what Caelan will remain – no matter what words the prince uses to maintain Caelan’s illusions. I guess the question then becomes: How long is Caelan going to allow himself to be fooled by Prince Tirhin’s promises?
Initially, letting go of our illusions can hurt more than the pain caused by those illusions.
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 Thronetrilogy 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.