The books really are blurring together now. Today was Caged Earth and Whisper in the Wood, books five and six of N.E. Riggs’ series Shadows of an Empire. Our young heroes (yes, they are young, Ilera is roughly nineteen in human terms and Banof is in his early twenties) are learning that you cannot keep major secrets forever. The adult lianthe have discovered the fact that they have diemthe allies…and they’re not thrilled. Meanwhile on the diemthe side, Umagan is learning the hard way that his altered human people are so incredibly stubborn that many will refuse to turn traitor. They are incredibly honorable and this will be the death of many I am sure as they fight each other in the days to come.
But Ilera and friends are not the only people to have secrets and hoo boy I should probably have seen that one coming far sooner than I did. I mean, it was well set up and everything but nope! I was totally blindsided and I loved it. Let’s just say it was a major reveal, of the type that indicates the series will soon reach a climax. There’s at least two books left of course, one I’ll start tomorrow and one that should be available this summer. But we’ll have to see if I feel the next book is the penultimate or not. I’ve been wrong before when predicting series length.
Of growing importance in the books are the various spirits of the elements. As a reminder, there are nine elements including water, fire, air, earth, metal, wood, spirit/mind, light, and shadow. Each has an associative spirit. We know that Banof has alliance with Hean, the spirit of Fire, and Teg the same for Jala of the Air. Shuo of the Earth seems to have taken a liking to one of our friends and Fuiyo of Metal has long been associated with the ruling family of the lianthe. Given her seeming ability to read thoughts and implant controls on people’s minds, it seems Mitek the diemthe empress has a connection to the spirit of Miel (spirit/mind). And Noshe, the Wood spirit makes an appearance in, unsurprisingly enough, Whisper in the Wood. Reikei of Water seems unpredictable but also shows up for the first time. As for the light and the shadow, we’ve been hearing about them for a while. Likra was the moon’s spirit, killed by Vijeth and her essence became the karyon, an item that can greatly boost a person’s elementalism. Vijeth, the sun spirit, is imprisoned within the earth with the only access to him being a hole underneath the diemthe capital Daranvirmor.
So all of the spirits have been seen or discussed, but the ties that bind them (or not) remain in shadow for several. I would also wonder if any particular spirit may have more than one alliance at a time, or if it’s a personal preference to stick to a single mortal at once. Plus there’s a number of questions raised by the very big reveal in that last book. I mean, it answered a huge number of questions too, but questions clearly beget questions.
As things go, the allies against the empress are truly beginning to work together, with no deceptions needed. And the empress’ forces are ceasing to hold back, committing more and more effort to the war. We’re starting to amass armies with totals in the five digit range instead of the four digits we’ve seen in earlier conflicts. But these armies will be straining the various countries to the brink once assembled, so I don’t foresee them being held in the field longer than necessary.
Not to mention that both the lianthe and the diemthe meant to start the war up in earnest again in a mere half a year. There is something special about the date, which I believe to be the five hundredth anniversary of the official conclusion of the last major war, which makes the timing perfect on both sides. There hasn’t been a huge amount of detail on that yet, and it’s mostly been shunted to the side in favor of more immediate developments. It’s a lot harder to focus on say, a meteor coming in two years versus a tidal wave in the harbor today. Even so, plans are being made by the allies to take the fight to Daranvirmor.
And I cannot wait to see what happens next.