BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The story of Dev and Kiran comes to a finish as a final conflict with Kiran’s old Blood Mage mentor Ruslan.
PROS: Strong central characters, inventive worldbuilding, satisfying conclusion. Excellent map that expands the playground of the imagination.
CONS: Novel opening drops into narrative a bit ungainly, novel takes time to find footing.
BOTTOM LINE: A satisfying conclusion to the Shattered Sigil Trilogy.
Courtney Schafer’s Shattered Sigil Trilogy, the story of Dev, the smuggler and mountaineer, and Kiran, the blood mage seeking to transcend and escape the life he has been born and guided into, comes to a conclusion in The Labyrinth of Flame.
The Shattered Sigil features a world of gorgeously described and richly invoked mountain vistas, dangerous deserts and intriguing cities. The Labyrinth of Flame takes this worldbuilding and provides us with new areas in her diverse world to explore, lands strong reminiscent of the Utah and Arizona desert canyons. The travels of Dev and Kiran as they make their way across areas south of their usual haunts are excellently described. The promise of the slot canyon in the cover image is fulfilled, and more, and the map in the book helps give a good scale of the world that the author has built, including lands beyond the scope of the trilogy.
Worldbuilding beyond the landscapes is also in full flower in this final volume of the trilogy. From the beginning, I’ve enjoyed the diversity of the magic and the polities featured in this seires. From Ninavel, a city supported by water magic in a harsh desert, to blood mages, charms, magical barriers, and at times, the narrative is bursting at the seems with imagery. This final volume adds yet new elements and ideas, sometimes at a breakneck pace that, despite the epic fantasy length, feels almost too breezily done. I’d like to learn more about some of the things she introduces in this latest volume.
Character has always been at the heart of the trilogy, however. The author maintains the split 3rd person/1st person perspective shift between Dev and Kiran, giving readers a slightly asymmetrical and yet complete perspective on her two protagonists. I expected major changes and growth in Kiran, as it has been throughout the series, and the novel delivers on that quite well. Dev gets some interesting character development as well, especially in an unexpected call back to his still-longed for youthful days as a Tainted. The Dev that emerges through this novel is a stronger, more rounded individual. As for Kiran’s ultimate journey, to speak too much of the details would be highly spoilery. I suspect my not-recent read of The Tainted City caused me to miss some vital clues as to where his trajectory was headed.
Although the finale has been long delayed, I am pleased that the final volume in the trilogy is finally in the hands of readers like me. The novel does not stand on its own, or even particularly well if the preceding volume, The Tainted City, has not been recently read. With those caveats, however, I was well satisfied with the author’s wrap up to the series, and I hope to have the opportunity to read more set in this world, or other worlds of her devising.