For those unfamiliar with the title, this is book two of a ten part serialized fiction piece by Ginn Hale. I’ll be reviewing each book as they come out and any new readers should start at the beginning (here). While I will attempt not to include any spoilers, my reviews will assume that the readers are familiar with the characters and concepts and simply speak about that particular book in the series.
Servants of the Crossed Arrows is a heavily plot orientated book. There is a brief but thorough summation at the start of the book to remind readers where the series left them. This should refresh readers’ memories but new readers should start at the beginning of the series. In the first book, numerous characters were introduced and the setting loosely sketched while the plot was all over the place with so much going on in so many directions. Book two settles down quite a bit and focuses on what I assume are the two main characters in the series.
The first 90 pages highlights John. John is the grad student and something called a Rifter that stumbled into an alternate fantasy world with his two friends. Picking up where he left off John is faced with a dilemma when he learns about a planned ambush. He decides to warn the other party in hopes of gaining aid for him and his friends – who have been living, mostly slowly dying, in the woods for the past year. This sets off a chain of events that leads to what will become John’s new life, or so I think.
The plot surrounding John carries along steadily. There is not much further development to the secondary characters and everyone pales against the vibrancy and urgency that John exudes. However the book offers some thick story progression to sink your teeth into. There are connections upon connections made and these are important. There are several seemingly random minor characters and details offered but as I soon came to realize, these are all very essential. I’d stress to pay particular attention to the names and details offered during John’s part of the story as the reason becomes evident during Khalil’s part of the book.
The second part deals with Khalil and this is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the book. Khalil is suffering from a confused memory so the reader is also confused. After he performed a blood ritual and got lost within the fantasy realm, two years have passed. Khalil can’t remember what he was doing or why and suddenly the details become fuzzy and convoluted. Khalil is actually in the future – or a future compared to John who is either in the past or present. If it sounds jumbled it’s because it is and this makes reading very difficult. The details never match up – even if you adjust for the advance in time – so I’m not sure if this is an inconsistency, a mistake, or merely part of the story.
I spent the last 50 pages confused and frustrated trying to understand what was going on with Khalil and how his experiences fit a larger picture. Once again it is so early on in the series that the overall plot, which I suspect is vastly complex, is too large to fit into the novella space provided. Book two builds on book one and the very nice twist at the end of book two promises that these details will converge soon enough and make more sense. So if you find yourself somewhat as frustrated as I was, stick with it. I have the utmost faith this will pull together.
The writing is once again exciting and the fantasy world really comes alive. It’s incredibly vast and textured with many obscure references that no doubt each have a place. I like that the plot is careful and thoughtful, although I wish it was easier to follow in some places. I definitely didn’t enjoy the second half of the book as much as the first. The twist at the end is very exciting though and sets up what I hope to be a fast paced third book. I honestly can’t wait for it to come out. Definitely pick this up now, don’t wait!