BOOK REVIEW: Shield of Sea and Space by Erin Hoffman

REVIEW SUMMARY: A satisfying conclusion to the Chaos Knight Trilogy.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Vidarian rallies his allies to oppose the monstrous plans of the Alorean Import Company, with the world’s fate in the balance.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Worldbuilding; well-conceived ending to the series; well done reveals of major aspects of the world.
CONS: Pacing issues, although less problematic than previous books, persist; some character motivations remain murky; some elements from earlier in the trilogy seem lost.
BOTTOM LINE: A conclusion to the Chaos Knight Trilogy that pays the promise of the first volume.

In Lance of Earth and Sky , Vidarian Rulorat, the Tesseract, found himself with new challenges and a burgeoning adversary — the Alorean Import Company. A corporation powerful enough to shape a world, the Company set in motion some truly horrible plans, even as Vidarian struggled with his own nature, his relationship with Ariadel, and more. Now, things have gotten only more complicated. Two kingdoms still stand perilously close to the brink of war. The return of magic to the world is still disrupting everything and everyone, unmaking old social structures and upending long held traditions and beliefs. It’s not easy for Vidarian to be the Chaos Knight, the Tesseract. And even greater sacrifices might be needed on the part of him and those who would follow him, to stop the truly monstrous plans of the Alorean Import Company from coming to pass.

Shield of Sea and Space is the conclusion to the Chaos Knight trilogy that started with Sword of Fire and Sea. Picking up not long after the events of the second volume, readers are dropped right into the middle of the action. Again, like in Lance of Earth and Sky, with nary a preamble to get us up to speed, the reader has to work to find purchase and reorient themselves in the author’s engrossingly imaginative world.

It is no surprise, given the previous two volumes, that the worldbuilding in the novel is far and away the strongest and most fun thing in the novel. Just when I thought I had seen it all when it came to this diverse and multifaceted world, the author throws even more surprises at readers. There are revelations of things I didn’t even realize needed revelation, but which explain in hindsight some nagging bits from the previous two novels. We get some more about Ariadel’s background, and we finally get a good handle on what and who the Starhunter really is. I have to revise, somewhat, my former opinion of her nature and tone from the first two novels which here, if not laid bare, is certainly illuminated.

Without trying to give away any spoilers, the ending of the novel makes logical sense and avoids a number of narrative pitfalls that I feared could happen, especially as the direction became clear. Thankfully, the story manages to stick to the landing.

The pacing of the novel was a bit off-putting. It did not seem as relentlessly breakneck as in the previous volume, and there are enough pauses and places where things slow down that this reader was able to find much better purchase and bearing. One incident in the novel, though, seems entirely designed as a plot device to get the characters to move on and not linger any longer than they already had done. Additionally, a couple of characters, including an antagonist, do things for somewhat murky reasons. Finally, there were a few things from back in the first book that I would have liked to have had touchstones on, given that this was the end of the trilogy, that seem to have been sadly forgotten.

One last bit I should mention and one of the joys of the series: the cover to this novel and the other two volumes in the series are just gorgeous. It’s a testament to the publisher’s desire to make beautiful books. I particularly thought it was an interesting and bold choice to put Ariadel and her firebird front and center on this last cover, especially given that she is not ostensibly the main protagonist.

I admit that after the second volume, I was nervous about the third one and considered not reading it at all. I am happy to report it that while it’s not perfect, it’s significantly better and ends the series well. The writing has notceably improved over the course of the series. With the skills and experience that Hoffman has acquired in the writing of the Chaos Knight series, I look forward to the next world and next set of characters that her pen creates.

And, as always, Griffins rule.