Cephrael's Hand: A Pattern of Shadow and Light, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
"All things are composed of patterns...." And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross.
In Alorin...300 years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor's brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D'Lacourte's mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he'll have to find him....
In the kingdom of Dannym...the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord.
In the Nadori desert...tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.
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|Listening Length||32 hours and 6 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 26, 2016|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #19,530 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#357 in Military Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,188 in Epic Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,383 in Military Science Fiction (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on August 13, 2016
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Melissa McPhail created a world unlike any other in fiction but also not unlike our own, where individualism and unity exist all at once; good and evil coincide, are intertwined, and vary in shades; and philosophy, mundane and profound, shape lives. With her debut novel, she captured a world -- from its physical base to its ethereal heavens, and everything tangible and intangible between, before known time and (hopefully) not its "after."
But let's start with the stars, one in particular: Cephrael's Hand. The seven-star constellation, named after the Maker's son Cephrael who is responsible for administering the Maker's ultimate justice, is ascribed as the Hand of Fate.
"A man may rule his household, And a King govern his land, But Death walks in the thrall of Cephrael's Hand."
Superstition walks hand-in-hand with these ill-omen stars, but a few people don't believe in it or fate even though the constellation is a blantant sign. Never following a certain course in the sky or establishing a pattern in time, it only appears during the most catastrophic events.
Raine D'Lacourte is one of those men who couldn't care less about the constellation. One of five Vestals and the best known truthreader, he wants hard facts and looks into the past and others' secrets, their motivations and actions, not up at the sky. His only aim is the truth -- Bjorn's truth. Funny thing since the most common exclamation and adage in Alorin for the ultimate truth is "Raine's truth." Raine needs to find Bjorn, former friend and fifth Vestal, to learn how to save the dying Adept race and Alorin. Deeper still, Raine wants to know why Bjorn betrayed their entire world by causing the deaths of the most gifted and potential Adepts. Maybe then he would find what he won't admit to never having: hope, faith, and higher purpose.
I'll admit that, throughout the book, he seemed hypocritical and unemotional. In a world based on connection and a man who looked for that connection and the ultimate truth in such a world, he was so detached and had so many secrets and ulterior motives I found it hard to like and trust him. But it's this character flaw -- an emotional disconnection from people -- that endeared me to Raine, in the end. He's so driven to save the world, he forgets about connecting with everyone in it and doesn't yet realize he needs saving himself.
Prince Ean val Lorian, on the other hand, knows he needs saving, is loved by many, and he fears as well as loathes Cephrael's Hand. The damning constellation appeared the nights his brothers were killed and again when, on his return to his parents and kingdom after being away for almost a decade, someone tries to assassinate him. As the sole heir to the coveted Eagle Throne, he must run and go back into hiding, and he wishes that Cephrael's Hand would stop following him. But more than anything he wants to kill the assassin responsible for killing his blood-brother, who was as close to him as his deceased brothers. Along the way, he begins to manifest a seemingly unknown power, making more enemies, never knowing who to trust, and eventually learning to trust himself.
I liked Ean from the start. He's charismatic without being arrogant, stubborn yet good-hearted, a bit naive but not frustratingly so. He has the boy-next-door persona but with a big, unfortunate destiny that he has no control over, looming over him. I didn't find Ean as deep as some of the secondary characters, though, which is my only issue with this book.
Now Trell of Tides ... Neither believing in fate nor willing to test it, along with his unknown past, his intensity and determination belied by his patience and honor, I loved him and his story. He embarks to discover his true name and history. Although he has a destination, it's the journey, the people he crosses and befriends, that holds more meaning than a name.
Or maybe not. Trell of Tides was lost and found on a tide, must follow the physical and proverbial tides, and seems to shift the tides of war with his strategic mind -- no doubt, all hinting at his role in the bigger war swelling on the horizon. Unknown to him, he seems to be gathering and cultivating clam-tight relationships that just might help unite the Alorin kingdoms and turn the war between them against the deadlier forces lying in wait -- because there are pieces, and there are players, and the players have yet to reveal their faces -- or even know they themselves will be players.
The plot twists and steady, massive expansion of the world are two more aspects out of many that left me in awe of Cephrael's Hand. The strands of all three men are intricately connected, yet there's the visceral and cosmic sensation of something much bigger than each, seemingly for each while joining them inextricably.
With Trell's story alone, Melissa McPhail cinched together literary's elusive threads of fate and free will -- as discernible yet joined entities. Nothing is coincidence; nothing is insignificant and without consequence, but there is always a choice -- for everyone. Good and evil, commoner or high-born, Adept or non-Adept, player or piece. Whether the character believes in happenstance or not matters little. There will be justice, a setting to rights.
Cephrael's Hand is unlike anything I've read, full of universal truths, a wide range of lovable supporting characters both good and evil, and the most believable, thoroughly thought-out world I've stumbled into. Melissa McPhail set a new bar for Epic Fantasy with her debut, in my book.
An ambitious, highly entertaining adventure that is also thought-provoking and discussion-worthy -- if there's a series you read next year, make it A Pattern of Shadow & Light, starting with Cephrael's Hand .
**Review based on complimentary ebook copy in exchange for an honest review.
As time went on, I discovered many good to excellent authors - David Eddings and his Belgariad and Malloreon series, to be followed by the Elenium and Tamuli series; the Rama series by Arthur C. Clarke; the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series by Tad Williams; the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind; and then eventually discovered the Wheel of Time series when I stumbled across the Eye of the World in a bookstore back in 1991. Having just finished the bittersweet ending to the Wheel of Time series, and having set out on a new journey with Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series, I have to admit that I felt a void in the SFF world. Sanderson, Williams, Goodkind and many others are excellent authors, but no one can (and probably ever will) fill the void that Robert Jordan left when, as many would say, the last embrace of the mother welcomed him home.
A good book will keep you reading way past your bedtime; but a truly excellent book will pull you in, keep you spellbound. You'll have tears in your eyes when characters encounter adversity and pain; and rejoice when happiness and solutions manifest themselves. You'll not just find that the characters resonate within you - you'll *understand* them and understand why they do what they do. I had, bluntly put, despaired of ever finding another author and book series that would cause this sort of emotion and feeling within me.
Until I began to read Cephrael's Hand.
I ran across Melissa McPhail's series when, while browsing Facebook, I saw the ad that many others did, and reacted with some indignation at reading the words "Like Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson? You'll love Cephrael's Hand." Until I realized that the 'offending' quote was not Melissa herself, but actual fans OF Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson giving their reviews and opinions after reading Cephrael's Hand and the other two books in the series.
I don't plan on giving a huge synopsis of the book. My only criticism, at least so I thought, was how the story began - with a man named Trell serving under the Mage while at the same time despairing of ever knowing who he was, as he had somehow lost his memory. I will admit that, as with many good books (like Robert Jordan's Eye of the World), it proved to be a bit tough to get into, as opposed to some others that 'seemed' easier to get into (such as Wizard's First Rule).
With that said, within 100 pages, I was hooked. It was clear that the breadth and scope of the world contained within Cephrael's Hand, if not *quite* as excruciatingly detailed as Jordan's, would establish itself as one quite a bit more real and clear than other books I've read, with worlds less established, serving merely to provide a vehicle for the characters to move around in. It is clear that in the world of Cephrael's Hand, women are every bit as powerful as men are, although nowhere NEAR as possessing of 'female privilege,' as many fans of Robert Jordan have said. (Mind you, I'm all for equality between the sexes; but my issue with Robert Jordan's series was that the same women that supposedly thought themselves superior and possessing of privilege...would then turn around and go all ooey-gooey at the sight of a man, or resort to petty snarkiness between themselves.) Probably more than any other author, I found story threads wound with others in ways I never envisioned, and I'm usually one of those who can, at the outset of a book or movie, remark to my wife, "At the end, you watch - so-and-so will do thus and such" and be proven right.
In short...the Facebook ads have it right. If you like Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (and *IF* you are intelligent enough to let the story develop into its own, and not expect it to be an exact clone of Jordan's or Sanderson's books), you'll love Melissa McPhail's Pattern of Shadow and Light series.
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She wrote a preface reminiscent of Steven Erikson's noteworthy one for the Malazan Book of the Fallen, and Cephrael's Hand entirely lived up to its promise (though it was not the daunting read she warned against; lovers of fantasy will cope with the cast of thousands just fine).
I was reminded of A Game of Thrones in places, and even of The Lord of the Rings in the characterisation of Ean being reminiscent of Frodo Baggins -- albeit with more of a Northerner's machismo to him.
This series looks set to have a scale, scope and execution to rival of all these works. It differs in being a little more comfortable. Whilst the evil is terrifying -- and very eloquently expressed -- most of the body of the writing deals with nice people with beautiful eyes and good hair wearing nice garb and eating nice dishes, and nothing terminally brutal has happened to any of the significant characters in the whole, decently long, first book.
But MMcP also excels in slowly introducing the reader to an extensive and well-reasoned cosmology and system of magic. I liked Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn books for this, but where they were maybe a little too explicit and mechanistic, MMcP's 'Patterning' strikes a lovely balance. (Or should I say 'Balance'? She gives us this concept which echoes Ars Magica's 'backlash', and almost glibly justifies the very firm hand she keeps on the reins of plot.)
I am so going to read everything she has written, and without delay!
If you like Jordan's wheel of time, this is very similar, yet different enough to create fresh interest.
I love these books and can't wait for number 4 to come out next year!!!!!