In this review, I will be providing a brief summary of each book in the Age of Legends Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong, in addition to what I did, and didn’t, like in each book. If you haven’t read all the books, I recommend waiting to read the reviews of the later books until you’ve read their prequel, as the reviews may contain some accidental spoilers here and there.
Sea of Shadows
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned. Only this year, the souls will not be quieted. Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.
What I liked:
- I’m a big fantasy fan, and this book certainly delivered. Armstrong created a well fleshed out, intense setting for this series, spending a lot of time setting up and describing the world throughout the book. There’s magic, mythical beasts and mysterious powers at work; and more than enough intrigue to draw most readers in.
- Moira, Ashyn, Gavriel and Ronan felt thoroughly fleshed out- Armstrong certainly delivered on the character development front. Each of the four major characters are strongly delineated as individuals, and the reader certainly feels drawn to and connected to them as the story progresses.
What I didn’t like:
- Despite a fantastical setting and a well-developed cast of main characters, this book just fell short in terms of action, romance and, well, excitement. The pacing of the story was totally off, with far too much down time and far too much build-up, leading to action scenes that were quite lack-luster.
- The lack of romance was particularly disappointing, since it seemed like Armstrong was setting up for some romantic interludes right from the beginning, by pairing off each sister with a man, then leaving them alone in the vast, dangerous wilderness. One would expect.. something. Instead, the reader gets nothing, except for maybe some wayward thoughts here and there.
- The actual goal of the plot. The journey was somewhat enthralling, riddling with mystical beings and the like, but really, what was the point of travelling all the way to the Imperial City to tell everyone that they failed in their roles as Keeper and Seeker, and oh hey, everyone is dead. Like the pacing, the romance (or lack thereof) and all the build up (which just led to a disappointing drop), the motivation behind the characters actions seemed to be somewhat dry.
Overall, This book did not meet my expectations. While all the elements of a great story were there – a fascinating world, interesting characters, and danger galore – Armstrong still came up short because she couldn’t bring them all together into a coherent, enthralling tale.
Empire of Night
Sisters Moria and Ashyn are the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood. Or at least, they were. Their village is gone. Their friends have betrayed them. And now, the emperor has sent them on a mission to rescue the children of Edgewood—accompanied by Prince Tyrus and a small band of imperial warriors. But the journey proves more perilous than they could have imagined. With treachery and unrest mounting in the empire, Moria and Ashyn will have to draw on all their influence and power to overcome deadly enemies—not all of them human—and even avert an all-out war.
What I Liked:
- Again, I’m a big fantasy fan, and the setting of this series once again delivered. Set in a completely different world than our own, full of fantastical beasts, magic and conflict. Despite the lack of something more, it still made for an enjoyable read.
- The relationships between Tyrus and Moria, and Ronan and Ashyn. The relationships, once again, hint at potential romance, with the girls (and boys) occasionally swooning over their designated partner. However, I enjoyed these relationships not because of the romance, but because the characters empowered one another through their relationships. The girls, especially, were never shielded or belittled through their sex, and the boys never backed down in the face of an angry woman.
What I Didn’t Like:
- The relationships between Tyrus and Moria, and Ronan and Ashyn. I know, I know, I said I liked them, and I do. But I also hate them, because once again, they came to nothing. No real romance, no real exploration of their relationship beyond thoughts along the lines of “we can’t love each other, life is too complicated.” It was just frustrating to read the bits about their actual relationships, since they never went anywhere.
- And the bits of romance we did finally get with Tyrus and Moria? Kind of just barf-worthy PDA that you would make fun of int he hallways at school. Again, Armstrong seems to be shying away from anything of substance, which is disappointing. Sure, she tried to throw in a love triangle between Tyrus, Moria and Gavril, but with the boys rarely in contact or missing for large chunks of the book, it felt a little off kilter.
- Again, the pacing of the story was totally off, with far too much down time and far too much build-up, leading to action scenes that were quite lack-luster.Armstrong did throw in some exciting plot twists, but with the narration jumping back and forth between the characters and within the timeline, the whole thing just go very confusing, very quickly.
- That scene. You know the one, with the prison guard. I won’t say much, but I really don’t approve of the increasing use of rape as a plot device by YA. Authors, like Armstrong, trivialize the experience of victims of sexual assault in their handfisted use of rape within stories that don’t really need it. So it’s a nope for me here, sorry Armstrong.
Overall, this book was a big let-down for me. The first book was mediocre, and from what I know of Armstrong, I was really looking forward for more action and content in this book. Instead, it was just much of the same- just as disjointed, still lacking depth and still relying upon build build-ups that led to lack luster payoffs.
Forest of Ruin
The empire rests on the edge of a knife, and sisters Ashyn and Moria are the handle and the blade. Desperate to outmaneuver the evil Alvar Kitsune, whose hold on the people grows stronger every day, Emperor Tatsu begs Moria to put aside past grievances and ally with Gavril—at least long enough to make an attempt on Alvar’s life. Meanwhile, reunited with her long-lost grandfather, Ashyn discovers that she is the key to a ritual that could reawaken an ancient dragon and turn the tide of the coming battle in their favor. But with lies and betrayal lurking around every corner, Ashyn and Moria will have to decide once and for all where their allegiances lie. And it may not be where their hearts would lead them…
What I Liked:
- Ashyn’s plot line was my favourite part of this book. She was both independent and interesting. She didn’t allow her feelings and relationship with Ronan control her choices, although she clearly made her choice regarding her feelings for him. She didn’t need Ronan, or Moria, to support her in her decisions or in her actions; finally, she became as strong and sure as her twin.
- Moria and Tyrus’ relationship, which finally became something more. While Ashyn and Ronan were still, after three books and several months, dancing around one another, Moria and Tyrus finally embraced their love for another. While it was still very much a relationship in its “sweetheart” phase, I like the a lot more in this book. They seemingly completed one another, filling each other’s flaws nicely.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Like its predecessors, the story line was extremely disjointed and confusing. At one point, the story line switched from Moria to Ashyn, repeating the same series of events from the other sister’s perspective, and I found myself thinking “wait, didn’t that already happen?”. While different perspectives can be interesting, I simply don’t think that Armstrong was able to employ them effectively. Instead of adding to the story, I found that they detracted from it.
- This book likely had the biggest build-up to the most disappointing drop ever. The entire book is building to an all out war. Heck, the cover even hints at a big fight. And yes, while there are several skirmishes here and there, it all just leads to… nothing? Well not nothing, but perhaps the most disappointing resolution to conflict ever.
- (Spoilers) Furthermore, Armstrong somewhat redeems herself with a major death, but then retracts that with some previously unheard of magic to bring people back from the dead. Like, what? Probably the most emotionally gripping part of the book was simply ruined by this cheap cop-out. And to make matters worse, it happened right at the end, leaving me closing the book with a sour taste in my mouth.
Overall, this was a pretty solid series in terms of writing and fantasy elements; the books, individually and as whole, were quite enjoyable. However, unlike Armstrong’s other series, I found that the main characters fell flat for me, and were somewhat forgettable. This meant that it took me awhile to get back into the story every time I picked up the next book, as I had to remind myself who everyone was and what was going on. Furthermore, the plot was entirely jumbled and confused by the multiple perspectives. However, what really ruined it for me was the lack of anything of substance; these books just felt flat. Despite this, I would still recommend these books- just don’t leave too much time between reads, and don’t expect much!
Also, if you wanted to preview these books, Kelley Armstrong has excerpts for each book in the series available on her website: http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/series/age-of-legends/
Happy Reading Bookworms!