Jeff's Review

To start, I think this is probably one of JV's best stories to date. I say this for many reasons, most of which I will go into in this review. While I was reading the story, I felt like I could actually see the tundra where the Clans live, see the Splinter soaring into the air and delving deep into the earth, and I shivered as the black ice glistened in the cavern, hiding the shadowy world of demons. To me, that emotional connection marks a great story.

Probably the strongest point for me in the story of Raif, Ash, Drey and the rest was the depth of thought that went into creating such a rich section of the world. Even though the overall world is the same as that in which the events of The Book of Words unfold, I felt much more "at home" in the northern reaches of this story, particularly in the microcosm of the Clanholds. To me, the Clanholds held such a rich and diverse history, one that seemed as much torn by rivalries and old hatreds as much as woven together by the bonds of family, friendship and tradition. Only in that atmosphere could the pain of Raif's separation from Clan and family be felt as strongly as it was when I read the story, as well as the treachery which Mace Blackhail performs, from taking the Clan to taking Raina as his wife. I actually felt for these people.

That brings me to the other strongpoint of the story: the characters. The people in the story were so diverse, from the innocent Ash March to the worldly Angus Lok to the evil Penthero Iss. Extremely realistic characterizations truly brought the story to life and enabled me to truly observe and understand the changes the people underwent throughout the adventure, particularly Raif, Drey, and Ash. These changes did not seemed forced, as sometimes happens in novels in order to advance the plot. Rather, the changes in characterization seemed a natural progression and the result of the changes in the world around them. Even little Effie changes drastically as her world of family is shattered and her Clan becomes embroiled in warfare and revenge. She becomes more reclusive and afraid as her ability to foretell becomes increasingly prevalent and powerful. In a strange way, even though I do not have a sister, I think I felt protective of her, exactly how I picture myself reacting to having a real sister her age. I could truly relate to Drey because of this. Strange? Maybe so, but that shows the depth of emotion and characterization JV has instilled in her characters.

The final part of the story which intrigued me and really kept me turning page after page was the sense of mystery instilled throughout the story. Who was the Nameless One in the cellars of the Splinter? How did Iss capture him and make him a prisoner for so many years? When we find out at the end who he is, instead of feeling the mystery solved, it actually deepens! Also, who are the Sull that they have such a rich connection to the people of the land, yet are feared and reviled by so many? The Sull have the potential to be the most interesting of the peoples introduced to date, although the Clanholds are going to be hard to beat! Angus Lok, with his connections between the Sull and the Clans, as well as to someone in almost every city and village he travels through. What is his story? It promises to be an interesting one! These and many other mysteries (who is Ash March? Sull or something else?) demonstrate your skill and finesse at weaving a compelling tale which keeps me interested and wanting more!

Thanks for the exciting story, JV, and for selecting me to be one of the people to be allowed into your world to experience it firsthand and give you my thoughts. Anytime you need a hand from one of your readers, I'd be glad to help in any way I can. Keep up the terrific work and I'll keep coming back for more. I am now lending your books to others to read and enjoy. The best thing about truly great stories is that they have to be shared!