I received this novella from the author, in exchange for an honest review.
This is the second installment in Ashley Capes’ “Book of Never” series, a sequence of novellas following the journey of the titular character, a fascinating individual in search of his origins and of answers to the many questions he asks himself about them. The setting for these stories is one that I always found intriguing, that of a less advanced civilization where many remnants of a more sophisticated past can still be found: some see them only as riches to be exploited, others – like Never – seek in them the key to unravel many of the world’s mysteries.
After surviving the deadly traps of the Amber Isle, a remote location where he found a few, tantalizing clues about his origins, Never has returned to his land, bent on uncovering more about his past and – more important – in finding a cure for the mysterious illness that has been plaguing him for some time and seems to be beyond the healing ability of his blood’s peculiar powers. If the first novella was more quest-oriented (in a way that somehow reminded me of video games, with dangers to be overcome and riddles to be solved), this one has a more adventurous feel to it: Never is still pursued by the relentless Harstas, who has been chasing him for a long time and seems able to find his tracks no matter how much our protagonist tries to mislead his pursuers. Harstas is also responsible for the mysterious ailment Never suffers from, and that gives many of the events he goes through a sort of dreamlike – or rather nightmarish – quality.
Following Never and his companions’ travels, we discover more about this world, one where the ancient, forgotten past mingles with magic that might very well be what remains of previous advanced technology: the few answers the reader is able to collect along with the main character are however shadowed by the more numerous new questions arising from these discoveries, in a never-ending chain of mysteries that is intriguing but also a tiny bit frustrating – I can quite sympathize with poor Never when he sees the answers he was looking for come at the price of new riddles to be solved…
I want to spend a few words on the covers of these stories, works of exceptional quality that enhance the contents themselves and are an integral part of the reading experience: this is particularly true for the cover for The Forest of Eyes, where the play of light and darkness and the details of the tree branches showcase the central figure in an intriguing way.
A series to keep on one’s radar, indeed…