The Book of the Sword: The Darkest Age II by A.J. Lake

Regular readers with good memories will recall that I picked up The Coming of Dragons (The Darkest Age Book One) in the grocery store of all places.  Having enjoyed it, I tracked down the sequel at the library as I was too impatient to order it when it was not available at the book stores I pursued.

When the first book left off, the two central characters – Elspeth and Edmund-  had been abducted by a dragon just as they were celebrating defeating their enemy Orgrim.  The Book of the Sword picks up the story but also weaves in the the much older back story: where the dragon comes from and who controls it; why the sword Elspeth carries was created and what gives it its power; what is this epic battle between forces of good and evil really all about, etc.

Lake introduces the book with prologue that sets up the story of the sword and each chapter with a flashback to the time when the sword was created and from the perspective of the characters involved in its creation.  In this way she weaves the past into the present.  We get to see the events that led up to the conflict that is playing itself out again; history repeating itself.

The ancient trickster god Loki has been chained under the mountain to prevent him from wrecking havoc and destruction on the world around him.  His capture was made with great sacrifice but the fear is that it is only a matter of time before he escapes again.

Elspeth feels compelled by the sword, and he own sense of duty and responsibility, to journey to his cave and kill him with the only weapon capable of achieving such a task.  Edmund and Cathbar insist on accompanying her despite their doubts about the wisdom of such a plan.  This leads them on a task not unlike Frodo’s famous trek to Mount Doom.  This is not to say that Lake’s story is derivative, just that there are some similarities in this trek: ancient weapons forged by the supernatural means, seeking the enemy in the center of a mountain, etc.  But Elspeth is out to destroy the evil one with this weapon rather than destroy his power by destroying the weapon.

The adventure takes them on a harrowing trek through the Northland and into the depths of the mountain.  They encounter wolves; angry natives and bandits; ghost like spirits out to sap their strength; a mysterious Fay (similar to elves or fairy folk) women who claims to want to help them; their nemesis the dragon Torment; and a giant ice dragon the size of a glacier.

Along the way they will learn the story behind the sword and the history of Loki.  They will also learn the identity of their previous guardian Cluaran.  But when they are face to face with Loki will they be able to destroy him?  You will have to read this exciting adventure to find out.

A.J. Lake has created a a gripping and gritty tale with strong characters and a nice blend of suspense and action.  Part re-imagined Norse legend and fable, part Medieval fantasy, this unique series is recommend for readers young (middle school and above) and old.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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