I’d read the excellent first part of this unusual Fantasy rite-of-passage book Rider earlier this year, see my review here. And when at Bristolcon, it was a no-brainer that I’d buy a print copy of the sequel and get Joanne Hall to sign it for me. I’d thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, would the second book go on delivering?
In a single moment of defiance, driven by a rash act of compassion for a stranger, Rhodri turns his back on his unit, his country and his comrades in arms. Taken in by the Plains Hawk tribe, he finds compassion, love, and a new purpose for his unique memory. But just as he is coming to terms with his decision, they are overwhelmed by a threat that throws the tribe into chaos, menacing their nomadic way of life and the people he has grown to love.
Rhodri is an interesting character with an inconvenient memory, who is far more flawed than your usual main protagonist, but also more endearing. I certainly found myself caring for him – and holding my breath, at times when he got into some really tight spots. Hall has already proved that she isn’t afraid of offing major characters – and I wasn’t convinced that Rhodri would necessarily prevail against the many dangers he faced.
The love story threading through this story is depicted with tenderness and passion. But I also enjoyed the sense that Rhodri still carried in his heart the people he’d loved before. All too often in a series when a protagonist moves on, those characters who hitherto played a major part in our hero’s life vanish, no longer even meriting the odd mention.
Rhodri struggles to acclimatise to the new customs and life of a Plains Hawk man, missing many of his former companions. It doesn’t help that there is hostility and distrust for him from certain quarters in the tribe – and once more, the story took a sudden left turn that had my jaw dropping as alliances very suddenly shift. And the way it happens is so very cool, I find myself constantly thinking about how it came about, even though I’ve now read a couple of books since, and I’m up to my neck in line editing my own novel. It displays the smart awareness Hall shows in her writing. I certainly didn’t see how Rhodri’s role within the Plains Hawk tribe was going to develop when I first started the book.
So, given this is the final book in the series, does Hall manage to complete Rhodri’s story satisfactorily? Oh yes. I had begun the final battle scenes, thinking the outcome was bound to go a certain way – only for Hall once more to confound my expectations and produce an unexpected ending that I really enjoyed.
All in all, this is a delightful read, packed with adventure in an engrossing, readable world, with a complex, interesting protagonist who keeps delivering surprises that had me whipping through the book by staying up far later than I should have done. Once more, an outstanding read and if your taste runs to well written, enjoyable Fantasy with a difference, then track down this duology – and whatever you do, start with Rider. While Nomad is certainly easy enough to get into, this is too good a treat to only sample half the pleasure.