Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Valley Of Shields Valley Of Shields
by Duncan Lay

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Deborah Knox

Valley of the Shields by Duncan Lay is the second book in the "Empire of Bones" trilogy. I had not read the first book in the series (Bridge of Swords) and there was no summary or review of what had occurred earlier; it was certainly a direct continuation of the story, jumping the reader straight into a small battle or skirmish. Because of this I did find it took a while to get an understanding of the three main characters – especially which were human (Rhiannon and Hew) and which was an elf (Sendatsu) and why it was not normal to have an elf in the human land of the Vales. Anyone who has read the first will have no problem re-familiarising themselves with the story.

The story follows this group as they travel to the homeland of the elves, after learning that not only can humans learn to use magic, as proven by Rhiannon, but humans are not even a separate species from the elves. This long forgotten secret was covered up by previous generations of elves after the massacre of all human practitioners of magic. There is also an upcoming war, which the travellers must alert the leaders of the elven land to. An army sent from a warring neighbour (probably the opposing fighters threatening our heroes from the opening scene of the novel) determined to bring down the magical barrier surrounding the elven land and invade the elf city Dokuzen. Politics, culture and magic of the elves are a main focus of this book, and the Japanese influence on the elves culture was the part I found most interesting, this contrast between cultures would have been more obvious to those who the first volume of this series – which I assume is set mostly in the human country of the Vales.

I found this story to be an easy read, surprisingly quick and engaging considering the number of pages, and less focussed on battles and wars than I first assumed (I only skimmed some of the war toward the end). I was a little disappointed to find that it all worked out much as expected with few real surprises or twists in the plot. However, this is most likely because I was reading the second volume – which has served to line up the stories for the concluding volume of this series. Those who enjoyed the first of the series will certainly enjoy the expanded world in Valley of the Shields.

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