Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Look out, everyone! Big scaly beasts are on the loose!
Daniel Arenson returns with the second book in his Song of Dragons series, Tears of Requiem. We pick up the story right where Blood of Requiem leaves off, with the surviving Vir Requis – King Benedictus, his wife Lacrimosa, their daughter Agnus Dei, and Kyrie – fresh off their defeat and (near) fatal wounding of Benedictus’s brother and ruler of the land, Dies Irae. The griffins have been released, and hopefully life may come just a tad easier for these poor, harrowed folks.
No such luck, because Gloriae, the stolen daughter of Benedictus, has released the Nightshades, a race of strange shadow-creatures that swallow the souls of the living, leaving a hollowed (yet still living) husk behind. I can’t tell you how horrible this concept sounds, on theory and on paper. To have your soul sucked away and splintered into a million tiny pieces, while your consciousness is still aware, feeling every morsel of fear, longing, and pain it endures? It really is one of the more frightening concepts I’ve seen in a book.
Anyhow, I’m getting off track here. So Gloriae releases the nightshades, and then Dies Irae, who’s apparently indestructible – a dagger in the eye won’t kill this bastard? What’ll it take! – kicks his adopted (stolen) daughter out of his kingdom, for all intents and purposes disowning her. She eventually runs into the remaining Vir Requis she is intent on killing, to prove her loyalty to her “father”. Angst, fighting, seduction, and all sorts of other wackiness ensue.
From there, the book becomes a mad dash against time, with the survivors trying to figure out a way to defeat the ostensibly undefeatable nightshades and save what’s left of this new kingdom of the living dead. Blood is spilled, love is made, unexpected allies are brought together, and we all know that though there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for these tormented characters, they’re going to experience a good amount of tragedy first.
This is a more than worthy successor to the first book. It moves along very quickly, and it really boils down to a mad – though exceedingly violent – survival romp. The characters stay true to themselves, some make grand discoveries about themselves, and through it all an almost horror-novel sensation of isolation and fear washes over near every word.
And yet, unlike the first installment, there is an underlying sense of lightness. Strange as that is to say about a book as dark as this, there is actual levity in certain parts – particularly in the repartee between Agnus Dei and her father. These scenes worked very well to split up the doom and gloom that encompasses the rest of the story.
As for characters, Benedictus remains the stalwart old king, firm in his beliefs and yet nearly overwhelmed with guilt. Kyrie grows immensely, though he is still somewhat trapped in the timidity of being a very young man, especially when it comes to women. (As the father of two teenage boys, I can relate.) Agnus Dei demonstrates perhaps the most growth, as the angst that consumed her in the first book slowly wanes, revealing a strong and yet still sensitive woman underneath. About the only character that seemed a little off was Lacrimosa, as she sometimes acted a bit out of character, almost as a convenience for the plot. And Dies Irae is evil incarnate yet again, a bundle of hatred and brutality so single-minded in his goals that he’ll even sacrifice his own humanity to reach them…though it could be argued that, because of his loathing, he ceased to be human long ago.
As I said, Tears of Requiem is a brisk novel. It punches you in the gut from the very first chapter and only lets you regain your breath for moments at a time. It brings you on a journey of darkness and love, and asks the question of how this struggling race of people will ever survive in a world where everyone hates them. Even with this, it’s an overly fun read, a tale of mythical adventure. And Tears of Requiem does something very important for any series; it builds the tension of a fantastic storyline, with the sorrow at its conclusion setting up what is surely to be an intense – and imminently heartbreaking – conclusion to the series.
Bring it on, Mr. Arenson. I’m waiting.
Plot - 9
Characters - 9
Voice - 10
Execution - 8
Personal Enjoyment – 9
Overall – 45/50 (4.5/5)
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