The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue


The secrets of Secret.

Synopsis of The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue:
An uncanny child born to brilliant parents, befriended by a prince, mentored by a wise woman, pursued by a powerful man, Secret Riven has no idea what destiny will demand of her or the courage she must have to confront it in the breathtakingly epic, genre-spanning sequel to The Mapmaker’s War.

My two cents

I was really happy to get contacted by the author to review The Chronicle of Secret Riven, the second book in The Keeper of Tales Trilogy. I had won the first book The Mapmaker's War in a Goodreads giveaway and fell in love with the the folkloric tale that the author had created.

The second book is set a thousand years after the first book, making The Mapmaker's War a historical event upon which the current story builds on, drawing on its mysteries and lore. I was waiting for the connection, it came somewhere mid-book, and was pleased that it didn't really interfere with the reading of this book. In other words, this book could stand alone or even be read first and you would still grasp the two discrete stories.

Like The Mapmaker's War, this feels like a folk tale. But it is also a mystery and the unfinished tale of a heroine. Our heroine is Secret Riven, in childhood refuses to speak, and is burdened with many inexplicable and scary visions. One day, Secret reveals a symbol she saw in her dream to her parents. Both become agitated: why does her father's employer Fewmany have such an intense interest in it? 

Secret grows up finding solace in communicating with animals and plants. Largely ignored by parents, Secret escapes her loneliness in a safe, protected world led by Cyril the squirrel. She makes friends with an Old Woman in the woods and an even unlikelier friend in Prince Nikolas.

Things turn mysterious when Zavet, a gifted translator, is commissioned to translate an ancient manuscript. Zavet keeps this a secret from her husband, Secret comes down with a mysterious illness and her hair grays. As Secret grows older, she learns that her visions and her unusual talents are all part of her destiny, which is entwined with the disappearance of the manuscript, her mother's mysterious death, and clues pointing to a cipher to the manuscript.

***

I loved this second book as much as the first. This again thoroughly entranced me, with its melding of fantastical elements, an old-world folkloric feel, and Domingue's beautiful lyrical writing.

I also enjoyed that this wasn't a straightforward story - I couldn't help by fall in love with the character of Secret. Getting to know her through the story is similar to seeing a young girl come into her own despite the adversities she faced. Her backstory, her relationships, her family history have been laid out yet remains tinged with mystery and an unsettling feel. This isn't a simple coming-of-age story; there is mystery, a sense of wonder in the setting of a fantasy world, and the promise of more to come. 

Domingue has further fleshed out this fantastical alternate world, inviting and convincing the reader just like Tolkien's Middle Earth or Pullman's His Dark Materials world. While the Mapmaker's War had a decidedly medieval English feel, this feels much more industrial (with a twist!). I appreciated how the detail poured into the descriptions of place, dress, entertainment and life in general make this world come alive. Perhaps inspired by the fantasy worlds of the literary world, there are appendices filled with maps and full text of the myths referred to.

The book alternates chapters with the main storyline of Secret's life and with myths / folklore / historical accounts. This threw me off in the beginning because of the shift in tone as well as cutting the flow of the storyline. I came to terms with it when I realized that Secret's visions and the incidents that were unfolding were somehow connected to these accounts.

This installment, unlike The Mapmaker's War, ends with much unresolved. I don't quite know what to expect in Book 3, but something in me hopes that it involves a dragon (come on, there's a dragon the cover!), blue boys, and a romance. Whether Domingue obliges, I don't know. Maybe she'll set Book 3 another thousand years into the future and I wouldn't mind it at all.

Verdict: Book 2 in the The Keeper of Tales Trilogy thoroughly entranced me, with its melding of fantastical elements, an old-world folkloric feel, and Domingue's beautiful lyrical writing. Read about Secret Riven and find out her destiny.

I recommend this for those who love discovering new fantastical worlds, those who have (and haven't read The Mapmaker's War, as well as those looking for something totally different.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


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Extended Synopsis of The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue:

 To see is a trick of the mind, but to believe is a trick of the heart.

One thousand years after a great conflict known as The Mapmaker’s War, a daughter is born to an ambitious historian and a gifted translator. Secret Riven doesn’t speak until her seventh year but can mysteriously communicate with plants and animals. Unsettled by visions and dreams since childhood, she tries to hide her strangeness, especially from her mercurial father and cold mother. When her knowledge of an esoteric symbol brings unwelcome attention, gentle, watchful Secret finds acceptance from Prince Nikolas, her best friend, and Old Woman, who lives in the distant woods.

When Secret is twelve, her mother, Zavet, receives an arcane manuscript to translate from an anonymous owner. Zavet begins to suffer nightmares and withdraws into herself. Secret sickens with a fever and awakens able to speak an ancient language, discovering that her mother is fluent as well. Suddenly, Zavet dies. The manuscript is missing, but a cipher has been left for Secret to find. Soon, Secret will have a choice to make: confront a destiny tied to an ancient past or deny it, never to know its whole truth.

A spellbinding story, rich with vivid characters and set in a fascinating world, The Chronicle of Secret Riven explores the tension between love and hate, trust and betrayal, fate and free will.

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