Two years ago I reviewed Dan Gillis’ debut novel, Sapling: The Blade of Ahtol. This was the first book, in a series of four, set in a world built for many series. The book was great. It is the kind of epic fantasy, equal to Tolkien, Brooks, Card and Rowling, that I love to read.
And of course there is more to come.
If you are looking for a new fantasy book to read this Fall or this year, Dan recently published his second book and first sequel to The Blade of Ahtol, Sapling: The Broken Halls.
This book is better than Dan’s first book. The story, characters and action are richer and deeper than those in The Blade of Ahtol. Here Dan really delves into Aeredia, its history and its magic. I love the new creatures and the new plot twists. The story escalates and the line between good and evil blurs into a rolling grey.
The following is my review of The Broken Halls. I gave it five-stars.
Review of the Broken Halls, Book 2 of the Sapling Cycle in the Aerluin Weave saga, by Dan Gillis.
The Broken Halls: oppressed with history and ghosts, the ruins of the once great and mysterious Order of the Open Hand, and the key setting of Dan Gillis’ second book in the Sapling series. Tales are told of the fall of the Halls of the Order and the surge of evil in Kenhar. Tales are told of betrayal and Defiler treachery. Now the holdings stand in ruin and no one approaches. But mysteries and magics reside here and the company of Firah, Zen and Shien are bound to these and so must enter the Halls to escape their destinies. Tohm is lost, roaming wild somewhere in the wilderness, a hook jabbing into the company. And things more deadly than ghosts roam the Halls and the woods around them.
Dan Gillis has done it again, only much better. Sapling: The Broken Halls is deeper and more magical than Sapling: The Blade of Ahtol. The events continue from those of the Blade of Ahtol, but the action and the direction of the story are brand new. The characters are reintroduced and further developed, as are Aeredia, its captured magic and their histories.
The Broken Halls differs from The Blade of Ahtol in that the companions take off on separate adventures, facing unique problems and dangers. The adventures interact like a jigsaw with each critical piece enriching the whole story, drawing the reader deeper into the expanding story of Aeredia and the Weave of Aerluin. And they culminate in epic events that astounded me.
Dan has a knack of involving the reader in the richly developing history and character of heroes, villains and settings alike. He repeatedly plays with the fine, twisting line between victim and offender, friend and foe. I pined over the tragic life of Nuril, and the trap of events that led to her joining the Blade of Ahtol. Events and tunnelled decisions cast all the characters like dice into the roles they try to struggle out of. This is Dan’s goal, to explore the reaction of people placed in difficult positions. In like vein, he gives the settings of the story life and personality too, making them active and ambivalent characters — victim and offender, friend and foe — in the story.
I am glad I read this book. Sapling: The Broken Halls reminds me of the first three Shannara books written by Terry Brooks. I read the latest books from Terry and Dan at the same time. Dan’s story and storytelling are as good as, if not in many places better than, Terry’s. I wish the first chapter depended less on the closing events of Dan’s first book, so that The Broken Halls could stand more steadily alone, but the book itself is rich and reads like a story unto itself. A reader unfamiliar with Dan Gillis and Sapling: The Blade of Ahtol could easily read this book and fall in love with the rich world of Aeredia and Dan’s writing. If you liked The Blade of Ahtol, you will love The Broken Halls. I highly recommend it to any fantasy fan and student of the human condition. It is worth the read.
As Dan’s editor, I also read the first few chapters of Dan’s third Sapling book, Sapling: Circles of Fate. I guarantee you will enjoy the first chapter; it amazed me.
Dan has also started a second series set in Aeredia. (Did I mention I have seen the world map of Aeredia and that you and I have read nothing yet?) This second series is called The Sky-Spinners. It is written in first-person present tense. I have not read nor edited any of the first Sky-Spinners book yet, but look forward to the opportunity.
Finally, Dan is also working on his dystopian science fiction character story, D.O.V.E., some of which he has read during several of our Write Group meetings.
I plan to interview Dan about The Broken Halls. This interview will complement his Blade of Ahtol one, focussing more on the craft of writing a series and building a sustainable world.
Check out Dan’s Ad Infinitus Creations site and his member section in the Write Group blog for more information on what Dan is doing. And visit Amazon to read Sapling: The Broken Halls. You can follow Dan on Twitter @AerluinWeave.