28 April 2017
The Keeper Alaric's journey to the Keeper's keep (no pun intended) had never been as eventful as it was this night. Disembodied ghosts, the howls of wolves not there, the course interrupted by fallen trees, he'd never encountered so many obstacles on the little known path. If he were a sceptical sort, he'd have to conclude that something was meant to keep him from his destination. He needed the ingredients to an antidote, otherwise he'd likely continue the trend of the past year since he'd stormed out, to never step foot in the keep again. Just one book possibly containing the answers he sought. Seeing more signs of Keeper's meddling upon the path he now knew what to look for, as he cast out his magic seeking further evidence along the path. To his surprise, there'd be more yet to come. In his forty-years he'd never seen the paranoia of the old Keeper's reaching such limits.. Even if he didn't understand it, he could only deduce that the Keepers meant to keep people from passing. Even his horse, Beast, seemed to think he wasn't meant to pass, at least until Alaric cast a paxa spell to bolster his confidence. As he passed one after another, they all seemed to know his dread; that he'd fail and Evangeline would be dead.
Try as he might, Alaric would find answers, at great cost to the memories his soul fought second by second to forget. The toll he carried was too great to allow any form of constant reminiscing. If he did he would rightly buckle under the pressure and end the madness he created. Doing the things he's done, because he loved his wife too much to let the processes of life carry out, would never excuse his crimes and would belittle his supposed motives of love. Only now does he understand the expression of the Keeper's Shield, the oldest and wisest Gerard, when he'd stormed off in denial of their refusal to recognise his plans. Having done what he's done because of love, he is now more accepting of why to be a Keeper is to turn one's back on the pathway to love; through love his morals were weekened to the point where he committed great evil to save it. That the book he sought did not contain the whole answers he needed meant he'd done what he swore to himself he never would: he communed with the Wellstone.
In seeking the answers he needs, in not accepting that there may not be an answer to his satisfaction, Alaric has now made available the depth of the depravities his memory holds. For to use the Wellstone for knowledge, one must first pay the price; recipients must first deposit their own knowledge. Now all Keepers current and future will know the story of Alaric, they'll know what he permitted to happen because he could not allow his beloved to pass from this life naturally. The fates would see his cost be in vain too. The Wellstone of course did not have the answer he needs. Ironically, he'd forever be known as the Keeper who'd committed far greater evil than the excommunicated Keeper Alaric believed to have held the answer he sought. He had the only clue he'd ever get before he paid the penultimate price; the clue was present in only the book and not in the Wellstone. Perhaps justice has been done in some small offering, although it could never be paid in full; not even through the giving or taking of his life.
Regardless of Alaric's status as a Keeper, serendipity would see he met up with the strangest combination of people within any group he'd ever heard of from his decades of learning at the Keeper's Stronghold. Stranger still, the young blacksmith, the grizzled dwarf, the sparkling elf maid, and the wisened old wizard that stopped at the same inn Alaric had chosen for his overnight rest, would be a group of treasure seekers who'd come together over the past months to locate none other than the same thing Alaric sought. Joining them would also be a young milkmaid with ideas of marriage to the smithy and not a hurtful bone in her body. The intrepid group who would travel to the final resting place of the crystalised gem holding the suspected knowledge Alaric needed, contained only some who were what they seemed. The others had hidden secrets and/or agendas that will put them in jeopardy through various means. And one amongst them would have no compunction about what should happen to the rest should they succeed.
Even people capable of great harm can still make choices that act toward their redemption. Contrastingly, even the apparently least capable can harbour the greatest threat. A Threat of Shadows highlights the enormous diversity of what makes up a person. Seemingly innocent people may be the greatest threat; whilst the one with great harm in their history could be the same one coming to harm in order to save their friends. Even groups with the greatest diversity of traits can come together in a time of need; or be pulled apart by the seemingly innocuous. Age, wisdom, experience, none are surefire bets in telling what people are capable of. Having the noblest of intentions means nothing if unless your actions are noble.
At its heart A Threat of Shadows is exactly what the name suggests. The kingdom of Queensland once faced a terrible darkness born of magic that found the worse possible vessel when it came into existence. Sweeping across the lands it took hold of man, woman, child, elderly, anything and everything it touched for it was not discerning. Without even the beginnings of a way to stop it, it was only the sacrifices of entire race of people also born of magic that provided the temporary solution their lives would bring. Never truly interested in the other races that shared their world, the sacrifice of the elves was even more truly astonishing in it's task, for it was the rest of the world who'd benefit from the cost. The noble long-lived race in harmony with the nature of their world, gave up their life essence in the only small chance that would halt the darkness from spreading further than it already had. From the flames, smoke and devastation walked the sole surviving elf who would forever carry the burden of the memories of herventire race. An elven princess whose father thought her never very elf-like. Manipulation by the darkness' lieutenant sought eight-years later to progress it once again. The lieutenant would cast a wide web seeking to bring about the circumstances to raise his captain and his destruction once again.
A Threat of Shadows contains wonder, magic, mystery and a soul searching blending of events. Filled with sadness and loss it shows how even the confidantes of truth can go terribly wrong; especially when they seek to change the natural order of life and death. Multifaceted and plentiful clues are devlivered throughout the ever progressive plot. With characters you love and then dislike, the story shows that even the poorest of choices do not necessarily have to define the future of those who made them. The wisdom of sage advice reiterates that tens of thousands of choices define our life, and that having one or a thousand poor choices in our past doesn't inherently mean we can no longer make good choices in our present and our future. I was thoroughly captivated and intrigued, enjoying nearly every moment of every page. Some books you know need to build context and history in order for the plot to play out. A Threat of Shadows seemed to do so in a way that resulted in never a moment when something wasn't happening.
I picked up the book to honour the generosity of the author in her support for a colleague whose books I've loved; but I've benefited in not only the entertainment and enjoyment it brought - I now have another author who to follow. The Keeper Chronicles are shaping up to be a definite addition to any good fantasy library!