tl;dr – A spoiler filled review of The Sanyare Chronicles
The following review is also available as a podcast.
This book has been reviewed by Vijayalakshmi Kartik. She has her own arts and craft blog at https://crazycookup.wordpress.com
Hello and welcome to book reviews by Digital Amrit!! This episode is about Megan Haskell’s ‘The Sanyare Chronicles’ books 1, 2 and 3 – the last descendant, the heir apparent and the rebel apprentice and also the short prequel Pixie Tamer.
Let’s go through the background, storylines of each book, then my thoughts on the series so far.
The stories are set in nine different realms, similar to that of Norse mythology. How do you go between the realms? Though portals – like the funky magical ones with a smoky exterior with a shimmering outline around a dark centre.
One of realms is the human realm, which is the USA in the present day. So, from dog-walkers to cheese and crackers, coffee to refrigerator with water dispensers, denim shorts to modern weaponry, packaged potato crisps to self-service gas station – all of these make a guest appearance here and there.
In the other realms, there are most kinds of beings that you can think of – dwarves – check, gremlins – check, goblins – check, elves, double check because there are high elves and also dark elves; trolls, yes (Though what came to mind was the river trolls guarding the bridges in dora the explorer), dwarves – yes, demons – yes ma’am! vampires – referred to as blood sidhe and there are other kinds of sidhes, dragon-horse, pixies, spirits, the fates (yup, some Greek mythology too), and a lot of other types of beings.
Each realm is described with meticulous attention to detail. Take the summer realm for example. The beings here are mostly fire sidhe, getting able to weild magic using the element of fire, of course. And there is a temple for the Sun, obviously. So, what kind of climate do we expect? That’s right, hot and humid. Preferred clothing style: thin fabrics stitched in a flowy fashion with flame patterns. Choice of colours for the palace buildings, temple columns, etc: orange and red, bingo! Even the intricate designs of the tattoos on the guards, the queen, the innkeeper in the realm are explicitly brought out.
So, what exactly is the series about?
All three books plus the little short story are about Nuriel’s journey – literally in and around these realms. Nuriel starts off as a lowly human changeling, the race which is looked down upon by every other race. She survives her an attempt on her life by beings from the forbidden realms. Which means, Nuriel will be executed for treason; or she needs to find out who gave the order to exonerate herself. The investigation takes her to the forbidden shadow realm. She ventures into this new realm with nothing more than last minute advice from her warden, her knives, Pixie friends and a lot of determination. If she were to die, she would rather go down fighting. That’s who she is.
The only person who can give any clue as to the identity of the employer of her assassins accepts clients only by appointments which are booked years in advance. Lucky for her, Prince Daenor, though not considered an heir, uses his charms and questionable royalty to get her an audience but it narrows down the list marginally with no further leads. But, there is a super awesome fighting that happens at the end of this chapter which brings Daenor and Nuriel closer to each other.
Braegan the vampire or blood sidhe as they are called in the series, sticks to Nuriel like a toddler to her mother in front of strangers but there is something odd about his behaviour. When the trio go to messenger headquarters for any info that might help. And that’s where Nuriel gets captured.
King Aradae decides to have fun and entertainment with this incident. What better way to get back at othin, the upper realm king! Nuriel uses this opportunity and chooses trial by combat, the only realistic option in which she could imagine a fair chance of winning.
After a spectacular fight with the second best fighter of the shadow realm, she emerges the winner. (Psst: second best because the best is Daenor who made it obvious that he had a crush on her). winning actually means to job the shadow guard, about which she has mixed feelings. To her surprise, she finds out that she can actually wield lots more magic than she thought possible. Before she could discover more, she is apprehended by the twin heirs of shadow realm. One of the twins is evil twin.
And, oooh, more surprises during their meeting – Nuriel is able to use a different but much complex kind of magic. Wherever she feels that all is lost, one more surprise – the most powerful being Lord Garamaen is with the shadow king and is vouching for her actions, wow! And, the first book is not over until Lord Garamaen announces her to be his descendant and heir!
In the second book, Lord Garamaen or Greg helps her use her magical abilities with no training. She fails at almost every magical test and sometimes craves for the lowly human changeling messenger life at the start of the first book. Daenor has had a promotion of a sort – he is an heir-in-training and the evil twin heir had been disowned, ok, good for the realm, good for Daenor too.
Daenor becomes Nuriel’s plus one in the ball at the upper realm. That’s where another attempt is made on Nuriel’s life and she escapes because of Daenor’s keen eyes and quick reflexes. The evil twin appears at the ball for a few seconds but makes a solid impression that she is not to be trifled with, even though she has been cast out. With a snap of her fingers, she renders everyone’s magical abilities useless and leaves without a trace. King Othin jumps at this opportunity to imprison Daenor.
The incident triggers a lot of political agitation and Greg has to mediate between the realms to avoid an all out war, which seems imminent. That leaves Nuriel to go all by herself one more time to be realms for an investigation which is time bound. This investigation is all the more important because it is Daenor’s future that hangs in balance this time.
This time she is scared out of her wits because her magical powers have been playing hide and seek ever since she was announced as Sanyare and she is too proud to tell anyone about it. Counting on her magic to come back to her magically in dire times, she goes with her Pixie friends to meet the fates.
From the daemon realm, she goes to Summer realm which gives them a warm welcome but the king and queen of the realm seem to sabotage the investigation. Thanks to turant, Daenor’s trusted mount
and Braegan, she escapes the palace with another stunning airborne fight between them and the barongs. A mermaid comes to their aid. By stalking the evil twin, they are a little hopeful uncovering what she was up to. An unexpected source gives her the secret ingreident to unlocking her magic. She captures Galadir, one of the conspirators while killing the evil twin, but the third one remains anonymous, impervious to her magical abilities.
At the tribunal of all nine realms, the queen of the autumn realm, Nuriel’s great aunt Eostre develops a particular liking to Nuriel. Greg becomes indisposed and Nuriel, as usual, is not taken seriously. So, Daenor is still a prisoner of the high court and Galadir is too important to be left to die. Nuriel makes a run with the beat up truck out with Daenor and Galadir of reach of the high king. The book ends with Nuriel escaping all of them after a nail biting car chase which has a fitting finale of the mermaid riding the a dragon horse to finish off the fight.
The third book the rebel apprentice picks up again with an attempt to escape the army of the high king. After a brief altercation at a gas station where they to buy liquid gold using gold coins, the crew of the packed truck seek refuge at the water realm. The Lady, the water realm leader perhaps, lets only Nuriel, Daenor, Galadir and mermaid passage through a secret portal to the summer realm. The queen of the summer realm forces them to surrender. Daenor agrees to stay at the summer realm if Nuriel could go back to her home. Nuriel helps Daenor find the truth about his mother.
Another cryptic clue and a shiny trinket come Nuriel’s way. Eostre is at greg’s house nursing him to health. Eostre gives quick lessons to Nuriel about herself, about greg, king Othin, king Aradae and the political ramifications of an all-out war.
Nuriel goes to summer realm and to free Daenor and turant. Now that she has everyone she cared about safe and close, she wants to be prepared for the war which greg was trying to avert. She tries to gather support but is unsure. The war has begun and both sides are fighting with all that they have got. When the upper realm would have almost won, Nuriel turns things around by doing something unprecedented – she sets the souls free from the daemon realm, forcing the daemon realm guardians to fight beside her. After all, she did ask them nicely but they refused. Too bad, they had to do it the hard way. Summer realm queen is the third conspirator, the battle is finally over with her death. Eostre and greg are quite proud of Nuriel’s fancy way of doing things. And that’s the end of book 3.
Pixie Tamer is a prequel where Nuriel befriends the pixies. It is a short and sweet story.
The book has plenty of different kinds of magic, little politics, a touch of romance along with a lot of action. Though there are so many different elements present, all of them have been so seamlessly tied together, that it is not overwhelming. The number of characters aren’t too many. So, everytime there is a new race or a new element is introduced or revealed, it only makes it more interesting.
Nuriel is the protagonist of all the books and the books describe her journey and her discoveries about herself, about the realms and magic, among other things. She does not come across as an invincible superhero, but as a trained warrior who doesn’t run away from a fight. She puts her skills to use effectively and uses her Pixie companions as the situation demands.
She is not miss perfect. She has her for share of failures, but is determined to learn from failures and mistakes. She tries hard, sometimes too hard, doubts her abilities and her approach when there is a lot of pressure. She is annoyed when she learns that whatever knowledge she was imparted was not entirely true and when reality reveals itself, she is taken aback by the stark difference between what she was taught and what was happening. In other times, it is the pure textbook behaviour of some kinds of people that baffles her.
Compared to the other characters, she is quite young. She feels lost, not knowing where she will fit in. She seems to be a misfit in most realms and being viewed as a human, she could be put down to die or to suffer at the whims of the rulers of these realms. She is frustrated when she is not taken seriously, despite her role as Sanyare – a truthseeker and mediator. She comes across as a person with whom we all can relate.
Pixies require special mention. There are so violent and deadly that they give an unfair edge to Nuriel over the people she is fighting against. They are efficient in spying and sending messages to people in different realms, without being noticed. They are almost invisible with their camouflage ability and not to mention, their affection towards Nuriel. Despite all of this, what stands out is their cuteness. It is with their silly conversations and childish demeanor that they lighten the otherwise serious story.
The books are fast paced, packed with plenty of action. The author goes over intricacies of different kinds of armour and each kind of weapon wielded by the characters, especially the pair of khukuri blades presented to Nuriel. Action scenes are brought out in so much detail that you can virtually see the fighters’ rapid movements to avoid a cut or to block a blow. Even though there is so much fighting, it is not the mindless hack and slash kind; they are very tactical and in response to the opponent’s moves. and the best part is that it is not gory.
The book that I read prior to the Sanyare chronicles was, mmmm, not to my liking. So, when I started this book, I was a little skeptical. And the first chapter of this book had too many unknowns – blood sidhe, faerie, Pixie, changeling, etc. The only changeling that I know is the creature from my little pony. I didn’t know what to think of the book, but the mention of dog-walkers on the beach and the pixies’ notorious behaviour pressed me to read at least the second chapter before I decide whether I should continue reading this or ask my husband for another book. Guess what? Chapter two had a casual but fitting mention of a song by the Beatles and I immediately knew that this book was going to be well worth my time.
I love all the books. The first book is my favourite so far. I am very impressed by the fascinating style of writing. Creation of the portals described in book 3 is a classic example of this. I could imagine the little pixie holding the paintbrush and drawing the symbols. Wow, it was a sight to behold! Though, I do admit, I can think of Pixies as visually similar to the parrot from Disney’s Jake and the never land pirates – cute but deadly.
Next to pixies, my favourite characters / species were the different kinds of birds – the one from the autumn realm which is a messenger from Eostre and the spies engaged by King Othin – Huginn and Muninn. I also liked fire sidhe beings and their ability to tame or wield fire. The way Daenor did it – be it burning the eyebrows of Braegan at the inn or throwing fireballs at Cendir, it was so cool!
Eostre’s magic with the plants and birds were so aaawwww! I am hoping that guess the remaining books in the series will take us to the autumn realm soon.
Of course, a couple of nitpicks about the books – the first is I cannot understand why Nuriel let Braegan accompany her to the innkeeper in the shadow realm and be a part of the conversation about assassins, while her mission to the shadow realm was dangerous and had to be secretive. The second was the description of the water realm, travelling inside to meet the Lady and thereafter to meet Morcana’s sister. It was the only place where the pace was lost and it seemed dragging.
About the cover images – somehow, the violet colour of Nuriel’s eyes are not brought out and her clothes / armour seem loose / ill-fitting, not the way the armour was described in the books. I wish the next set of books would also include a bonus section of illustration of the characters. I would love to see Nuriel with her blades, Daenor use his sword or throw a fireball, the pixie with the paintbrush and the whimsical autumn realm!
Thanks Megan Haskell for these books! Looking forward to the rest of the series!
Thank you for listening to this episode and as usual, we welcome your feedback and comments on the podcast and also on the books.