There is just something about an epic fantasy that you feel as though you just might want to believe somehow exists. My first experience of this was, of course, the first time I read the Lord of the Rings so many years ago. I think that may have contributed to why I just like a great story that has so many layers that build up a fantasy world to get lost in even if it is just for a little while. It had been a long time for me to feel like this again, but the Paladin Trilogy stirred that up to the further I got into the series.
Last year I made my way through the first two books, A Rage in the Heavens and Upon This World of Stone, which really in many ways rekindled my love for grand scale fantasy worlds. Unfortunately, I was in a writing funk and never got around to telling you all about it. The short of it is Ascending Darkness jumps right back in where the story left off in book two. The way that James A. Hillebrecht constructed the story means you can’t just jump in and read any book. You have to start at the beginning and have a journey right along with the characters. There are multiple layers and story threads that run throughout the trilogy that intermingle at different points. Not so much that you get totally bogged down with anyone layer or get lost like one might with George R. R. Martin at times. The transitions from one set of characters to another are smooth and sometimes I didn’t even notice it.
There is still plenty of political intrigue to go around even in the war-torn world that we find our selves in for the final book. Darius our heretical paladin from books one and two is of course the pivotal character of the trilogy and somewhat predictable in that it should fall on his shoulders to save the world. However, every hero can use a little help from time to time no matter how strong, battle-hardened, or faithful to their god can do it all. Not even with a magic sword like Sinarian the Avenger whom in a lot of ways is a character all on its own just like its evil counterpart called the Ohric. We also have his daughter, Shannon, Adella the thief, and Jan who join in the fray. I might suggest that Darius and Adella have a bit of a history between them that runs throughout the story that really becomes a central part of Ascending Darkness.
The entire time I knew that somehow that even though the Ohric was wielded by a human (Regnar and then Argus) that it was just using them. Its power brings back the Juggernaut back from the underworld during the most epic part of the last battle to save the world. I don’t know how it could have been better, plenty of magic and battle tactics that gave the scenes a lot of realism even though obviously it couldn’t actually happen. Mix in evil wizards, dragons, giants, and three parties going for the most powerful object in the world hidden deep beneath a monastery. The reality is it came down to which god would overcome through their chosen champions. Would it be Baal or Mirna? I actually concluded that neither truly won with Darius’ final choice that seemed more fitting with who he was.
With plenty of action, magic, and character-driven story this book was very fun to read. I did notice that Hillebrecht left the ending a bit open-ended. I don’t know if there will be more stories within this fantastic world, but there could be. Darius and Adella finally and I mean finally dropped their cat and mouse games. Shannon was smitten by a prince and Jan well it was obvious aspired to become a wizard after. These tantalizing tidbits suggest there could be more, but the story was wrapped up well enough that they just might be left up to us to conclude that the fairytailesque ending is what it is. I will end with just saying one thing this trilogy was just fun to read and I would definitely suggest those of you that like sword and sorcery style fantasy give it a try. In fact, these books reminded me that I had the Sword of Truth series in my digital library. My next series perhaps along with Legends of Vanx Malic.