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Book Review: Sadar’s Keep: Book Two Of The Oran Trilogy by Midori Snyder

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In sports they talk about the sophomore year jinx when a young player has a bad second season after playing well in their first year. I wonder if they've ever come up with a similar term for the second book of a trilogy when it doesn't live up to the expectations of the first?

I don't know about anybody else, but more often than not I've found the second books of trilogies to be the ones I've enjoyed least. Sometimes I've even found myself wondering what was the point of the second book when I've finished a trilogy. Instead of the author making any attempt at developing the plot, furthering the action, or at the least engaging in character development, it's often just felt like padding until the author can turn the corner onto the finishing stretch of the story.

I'm honest enough to admit that sometimes I as the reader could be at fault, being impatient to find out how the story ends. But the flip side of that coin is if the author can't sustain my interest with the second book, then perhaps something about it is lacking. Far too many times I've put down book two and seriously debated bothering with the third book because it's felt like the author has just been going through the motions.
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Of course on the other hand there are those great books where the author leaves you hanging off every word and has created a series where each book is better then the previous one. Where the first book introduces you to the world the story is set in and some of the main characters, the second book pulls you so deep into the story that even before you finish you're wondering when the next installment will be published.

This is exactly what Midori Snyder was able to do with her Oran Trilogy. Book one, New Moon introduced us to the world of Oran, its people, and the magic that is at the very heart of the land's existences. Two hundred years ago Zorah the Fire Queen killed two of her sisters, Air and Water and stole their power in an effort to remain young forever. Her third sister, the Earth Queen, changed herself and a number of her followers into trees in order to await an opportunity when they could mount a rebellion.

Twenty years before the events in the books take place she woke four of them and implanted in each the necessary power that the child they sired would be a true elemental and grow up to be a replacement queen. Oran is only stable when four Queens rule and are able to build what is known as a Queens Knot on the astral plane. This Knot of ethereal energy is what shields the country from being sucked into the black void of chaos.

In New Moon Lirrel finds the Fire element, Jobber, and the two barely escape with their lives from the city of Beldane. Now on the run from the Silean army that the Fire Queen asked to invade her country to keep the peace, we find them at the beginning of Sadar's Keep desperately trying to make their way to the safety of rebel army's (they call themselves New Moon) encampment.

They had fled by boat as it was the safest and quickest way out of Beldane, but it kept them out of touch with news for two weeks before they made landfall again. During that time they discover that the Silean army is slipping the Fire Queen's leash and is preparing to try and draw the New Moon army out of hiding.

It's while they are hiding themselves from a soldier patrol in a swamp that Lirrel realizes that someone else is hiding in the swamp as well. Shedwyn is the new Earth Queen and because of her powers has been forced to flee the estate she had been working on. She is accompanied by her Silean partner, Eneas, who has given up his birthright for love of her.

It's only when they discover an Oran village with all the inhabitants massacred that they understand truly the Silean change of policy and how desperate the situation really is. Will going to the New Moon encampment only delay their inevitable destruction at the hands of the army? How can a motley band of untrained farmers defeat an army in a full-scale engagement? Hit and run guerrilla tactics is one thing, but in a direct confrontation they will be horribly outnumbered.

But that's not all they have to worry about; Zorah has discovered that she is able to manipulate Jobber by finding her thread in the astral plane and she fills Jobber with hatred for Shedwyn, the earth element. At the height of the battle between the armies of New Moon and Silea, she twists Jobber's anger so that it becomes an echo of Zorah's hatred for her sisters and directs it at Shedwyn. All that stands between the destruction of the one, if not two, strands of the new knot is Lirrel, and she doesn't know if she is strong enough to reach through Jobber's anger and hatred.

In book two of the Oran Trilogy, Sadar's Keep, Midori Snyder has created an extraordinary follow up to the opening chapter. Not only does she continue to develop the plot, adding layers and texture to an already wonderful construction, but she also continues to allow her characters to develop and grow. The deeper into the story we go the more information we are given that is directly pertinent to the plot.

Each piece of information imparted by one scene or another, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time, turns out to be important. Reading Sadar's Keep you soon realize nothing done or said by a character is without reason, and by the end of the book you dare not dismiss anything as filler. Like the four elements and the four queens who will hopefully form the new Queen's Knot, everything in this book, and in the overall story to this point, is interconnected one way or another.

Midori Snyder will never be accused of suffering from the sophomore jinx of trilogy writing when it comes to the Oran Trilogy. In fact at the rate the story is improving book three ought to be spellbinding. I'm just glad I own all three and don't have to wait for the final story to be published. I'll let you know how it turns out soon.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.