a review by Rebecca Muir
This is the second book in Duncan Lay’s Empire of Bones trilogy. I reviewed the first book, Bridge of Swords. In Valley of Shields, Sendatsu, Rhiannon and Huw travel back to Dokuzen, the city of the elves. They seek an alliance between the elves and the Velsh against the Forlish.
The disdain the elves hold towards humans makes them reluctant, both to help the Velsh and to acknowledge the threat the Forlish pose. Sendatsu, Rhiannon and Huw, with the help of Sendatsu’s friends Gaibun and Asami, must take matters into their own hands.
In this book we see Sendatsu continue to grow. His sense of what is right and what he should do grows until he finally finds himself able to stand up to his father. The relationships between Sendatsu, Rhiannon and Huw settle down somewhat as they finally learn to respect and trust each other. However, the theme of tense and complicated relationships from the first book continues in Valley of Shields with the love triangle between Sendatsu, Asami and Gaibun. I found the tension this caused detracted from what was otherwise an exciting and engaging story.
The themes of fatherhood and of deceit, which played a big part in Bridge of Swords, are carried over and developed further in this book. The impact Rhiannon’s father, and his death, had on her is explored further, and the interaction between Sendatsu and his father plays a big part in this book. Sendatsu finds himself still seeking the respect and commendation of his father, despite the abuse he has subjected him to, despite not wanting to be like him. We also see Sendatsu interacting with his own children. His desire to be a better man in order to live up to their high opinion of him is one of the most likeable things about him.
As in Bridge of Swords, deceit is shown to be a destructive force in relationships. We see again that the temptation to be less than honest, in order to further a relationship, actually damages it in the long run. The power of lies is also seen in the inability of the elves to see past the lies they invented for themselves centuries ago about their superiority to humans. A lot of terrible things happen in this book because of their inability to let go of those lies.
This is a gripping, hard-to-put-down book. There is a lot of tension in the book – it is not a light hearted read. If you liked Bridge of Swords (which you should definitely read first), you will like this book too. I look forward to the conclusion of the trilogy – there is a lot still to be resolved.
Publisher: Harper Voyager, an imprint of Harper Collins
Release date: April 2013