Title: The Firebird Chronicles: The Nemesis Charm
Author: Daniel Ingram-Brown
Release Date: 27th May 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
They say only the dead can cross a Threshold, the dead and those who have faced a Nemesis Charm.
When Apprentice Adventurers, Fletcher and Scoop, discover their mother has fallen under the curse of a strange sickness, they prepare to sail for its source, a Threshold, a doorway to the world beyond the Un-Crossable Boundary.
But they are not the only ones seeking to cross the Threshold. Their old enemy, Grizelda, has heard that beyond the Boundary lives a woman with the same power as the Storyteller. With the help of a monster made with an undead heart, she plans to cross the Boundary and steal that power for herself. If she succeeds, the Academy, the island and everything in Fletcher and Scoop’s world will be hers.
Note: This book was given for me in return for an honest review. You can read my review of the first book of this series, Rise of the Shadow Stealers, here.
The Nemesis Charm, The second book in Daniel Ingram-Brown’s Firebird Chronicles, jumps straight into the action a little while after the first book ended. We see our apprentice adventurers and brother-and-sister duo Fletcher and Scoop battle pirates and their old enemy Grizelda. Their ultimate task, given to them by their mentor: to cross the Un-Crossable Boundary and save the lives of many of their friends, who have fallen into a deep sleep from which they cannot be awoken.
The first thing I noticed about this book was that it is considerably darker than the first book in the series. The story launches straight into the action, with knife fights and horrible punishments from Grizelda, the series’ main villain: “With lightning speed she pulled a knife from the folds of her cloak and lunged forward … The old woman had stabbed him through the hand, the blade slicing clean through his flesh, embedding itself into the mast. She twisted it.” It’s descriptions like these that make me imagine the scene much more vividly than if it were written without them.
One thing that I liked a lot was the quick switches between perspective throughout the whole story, showing the reader what each character was doing in the same scene at the same time. It created a sense of urgency, especially when they were carrying out secret missions to save people. This is especially useful when the characters actions are important to the story but they are miles away from each other; for example, Fletcher and Scoop are lost in a story, an odd vision that allows them to see and feel that they are in a different place; the scene cuts to the Storyteller, miles away in the Kingdom of Alethea, watching the Apprentices through his pool of silver threads (a bit like the crystal ball in The Wizard of Oz, where the witch can watch over Dorothy); and then the scene cuts back to Fletcher and Scoop again. It’s almost like a cutaway in a film, but that small segment adds so much to the story.
Similar to this, the story sometimes cuts away to the ‘real world’, our world, which becomes a huge twist in the story. I won’t reveal the twist (no spoilers!), but linking the fantasy world to our real world was something that I thought was a genius idea. You’ll just have to read it to find out how it works.
Finally, the story ends on a massive cliffhanger! As I read the final couple of chapters I began to wonder how the story can be wrapped up in only a few pages, but lo and behold, the cliffhanger ending left me wanting the next piece of the story right now.
Overall, The Nemesis Charm definitely didn’t disappoint. It had the fast-paced energy and action of the previous book, great character developments (if you know me you’ll know I love a good bit of character development) and an ending that leaves you pining for more.
Extract from The Nemesis Charm
The Yarnbard hurried through the woods, dodging the dark trees. He was struggling to keep up. Ahead of him, the Storyteller leapt agilely over crooked roots.
Above, angry clouds spiralled into a vortex.
Around the Yarnbard, the trees tapped and creaked. It was as if they were threatening him.
Panting, the old man clutched his pointed hat, his kaftan dragging along the ground. The night was making him feel out of sorts. There was something unnatural about these woods, something that crept over him, twisting through his mind.
Why had the Storyteller brought him here? Couldn’t they have stayed on Fullstop Island?
He dragged his staff behind. It bumped over the uneven ground, threatening to get caught in the low branches.
A lightning fork split the air and the trees flashed into view. Spiked branches reached forward, as if warning intruders. The Yarnbard could see gnarled faces in the trunks.
‘Why are we here, Storyteller?’ the Yarnbard wheezed, ducking under a low branch.
‘All in good time,’ the Storyteller called over his shoulder.
The Yarnbard was Ambassador to the Storyteller. He represented him on Fullstop Island. He had spent his whole life serving this man, a man who had the power to create and to change stories. He trusted him totally. But tonight there was a seed of doubt in his mind.
It’s this place, the old man thought. I have to get out of here.
He stumbled, tripping on a root. As he stopped to shake himself free, the Storyteller disappeared into the thicket ahead.
Leave now, the trees snarled.
‘It’s as if they’re trying to block our path,’ the Yarnbard muttered, ‘as if they’re moving.’
‘They are,’ the Storyteller called back. ‘Just keep your eyes on me.’
The old man tugged his kaftan free from a twig. The branch snapped and he felt the forest wince with pain. He forced himself onward.
Suddenly, the trees gave way. In front, there was a wall. It appeared abruptly, stopping the Yarnbard in his tracks. The trees pressed right up to it, their branches piercing the crumbling stones, dead ivy having weakened the structure.
The Storyteller was ripping tendrils away from the wall. Underneath, the Yarnbard could see decaying wood. It was a large door, hidden by the forest.
‘Help me with this,’ the Storyteller said, panting.
The Yarnbard joined him, pulling foliage away with his staff.
‘What is this place?’ the old man asked.
‘This is the Tower of Janus.’
The Yarnbard had heard the name. The Tower of Janus was a ruin that stood at the centre of Turnpoint Island. It had once been a place where great councils had met and judges had sat. But legend said that an enchanter, unhappy with one of the decisions made in the tower, had cursed it. The tower had crumbled and the army that defended it had been turned into trees.
Another flash of lightning revealed knotted eyes fixed on the old man. The trees were scared. He could hear them crying out as they ripped the vines away from the door.
Don’t do it!
Do not enter this fortress of fateful choice.
The noise in the Yarnbard’s head was deafening.
As soon as the Storyteller had exposed enough of the wooden entrance, he grabbed an iron ring and heaved at it. The old man joined him and together they prised the door open. When the gap was big enough, they slipped through, into the tower.
At once, the noise that had been assaulting the Yarnbard ceased. The tower was eerily silent.
The two figures moved slowly into the fortress.
You can read more of the extract on Daniel’s website.
The Nemesis Charm comes out exactly a week today!
Buy The Nemesis Charm on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1TKRvSc