4 out of 4 stars
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We are Voulhire: The Ascension of Akistry, by Matthew Tysz, is the fifth book in a fantasy series about two parallel worlds. One world is the physical world called Cosmos; the other is the world of magic called Caromentis.
Like the previous books in the series, this book continues to focus on the main character, Galen. It also includes the perspectives of many of the other supporting characters in different cities across the kingdom of Voulhire. While circumstances in the previous novel separate Galen from his companions, the three are united throughout most of this novel. Because of a message from the Emperor of Whispers, Galen feels that Meldorath must be defeated. Galen’s frustration with his friend Demetrius, the monk, clouds his vision as he compels his friend to lead him through the Dire Jungle. Galen is sure he will find the solution he needs in the mysteries of this perilous, sentient forest. As in the other novels of this series, however, it is not clear if the characters are entirely good or entirely evil. The profit Akistry challenges Galen to face his past in order to act with clarity. Galen and his companions must act on their instincts and hope that they choose the correct path.
Tysz effectively furthers the overarching plot with each novel in the series. In this novel, the majority of the central conflicts converge as the series moves towards the climax. Characters that seem diametrically opposed in previous novels find common ground. Previous allies lose each other’s confidence and even turn against each other. Tysz continues to use concise descriptions to create vivid imagery as readers experience settings through the characters’ viewpoints. I thought it was clever that Tyze uses the two perspectives of a character walking the jungle’s floor and another character using his magic to travel above the jungle’s canopy. Through these two perspectives, readers can imagine the vastness of the Dire Jungle.
While the plot of the novel has a satisfying conclusion, the conclusion leaves readers eager to read the final book in the series. It is difficult to explain how much I enjoyed the complex weaving of plots that have taken brilliant turns in this book without giving away spoilers. I especially appreciated that while some of the events were shocking, they all made sense and tied together clues from previous books in the series. I also enjoyed Tysz’s use of a snake-like creature - traditionally associated with evil in our culture - as the benevolent, patient, and wise prophet. Through the juxtaposition of this serpentine creature with the casual callousness shown by some humans towards other humans, Tysz emphasizes the terribleness of the humans’ actions.
The only part of this novel I didn’t thoroughly enjoy was the unclear descriptions of Rowan’s motives. In the first novel, Tysz plants seeds of doubt about Rowan’s potentially ulterior motives that still have not been addressed. Instead, Rowan's answers about himself remain evasive. Apart from Rowan’s loyalty to Galen, it is difficult to determine if he can be trusted. Although I find this frustrating, I suspect that in the final novel in the series, Tysz will reveal that this ambiguity was intentional.
I rate this novel 4 out of 4 stars. The novel is fast-paced and entertaining. Each book in this series seems to build on and exceed the strengths of the previous novels.
I would highly recommend the entire series to anyone who enjoys the genre of fantasy. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has not read the first four books of the series.
We are Voulhire: The Ascension of Akistry
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