Series: A Reaper of Stone #2
Publisher: Self Published (February 15, 2016)
Length: 90 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
Broken Banners continues the story of Elinor, King’s Reaper, and her loyal friend and royal engineer Conbert, which began in A Reaper of Stone. But before they make their appearance, a new character (yet an old friend of theirs) makes a rather dramatic introduction. Aldis finding himself in a very precarious situation; his plan of drugging a rival reaper and then besting him in a duel to obtain a lucrative “reaping” contract going awry, as his competition lies dead at his feet. The mysterious circumstances of the death leading to Aldis winding up before a Warden, where he expects jail time and the lose of all he was worked, schemed, and cajoled for. Then a new lease on life is extended to him — if he is willing to trade what little honor he has left to obtain it.
Flash forward in time. Elinor and Conbert remain in the wilds. Their current mission sending them to Heights Ward Keep, not to reap the magical edifice but to transfer all their engineers to the Aldis’ Ninety-Fifth Pioneers.
The friends realize what this means: they are out of favor. Probably due to the events which transpired at Timberline. Elinor’s idealistic and righteous actions leading to more bad blood between her and the royals who rule the kingdom. And while she attempts to put an optimistic spin on their circumstances, Con will have none of it, seeing an ever worsing of their fortunes. Little do they know they are both correct.
Almost immediately, Elinor and Con ride into a scene of horror. Dozens of men and women of the Ninety-Fifth cut down and left to rot in the forests just beyond Height’s Ward Keep. All signs pointing to someone or something riding them down as they were attempting to flee. The who and why not clear. The fact that Aldis and over half his company are not accounted for among the bodies demanding that Elinor look for survivors, braving an unknown danger which she and her company are not prepared for!
The story which spirals out from this beginning is filled with classic Gelineau and King tension, mystery, daring do, and subtle world building. At its heart, though, Broken Banners is really a tale about friendship, redemption, and becoming the person you could have been.
Whenever I sample another Echo of the Ascended story, what always amazes me is how well-developed and distinctively real the world feels. The fact the authors are able to accomplish so much world building in such concise novellas is a true testament to their storytelling skill. And with Broken Banners, this is front and center, as they add new nuances to this amazing place.
The other highlight here are the characters themselves (just as it should be). Elinor has already become a favorite of mine, but she grows even more so; her desire to make the world a better place no matter the personal cost a wonderful break from the grimdark heroes of most modern fantasy. Meanwhile, Conbert definitely proves he has the Samwise steadiness to compliment Elinor’s rashness, and the addition of the complex, conflicted Aldis only adds to the fantastic mix of this growing group.
I really can’t hide the fact that I love Gelineau and King’s Echo of the Ascended series. Every novella of each series I have read has been an entertaining and uniquely emotional experience, one which brought to mind the great, classic fantasy of other authors. You might have even read some of these serious yet fun stories. Books penned by fantasy greats such as David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist, Robert Jordan and more recently Michael Sullivan. And if you enjoy that “type” of epic adventure, then you really should pick this and the other Gelineau and King stories up today.
I received this novella for free from the authors and Netgalley in return for a honest and unbiased review. The opinion you have read is mine alone and was not influenced by anyone else.