Thursday, March 10, 2016

Black River by Peter Fugazzotto

Shield Scyldmund has lost his purpose.

For the past twenty years, Shield and his mercenary brothers the Hounds of the North have been purging the Dhurman Empire of warlocks and witches.

But now the Dhurmans no longer want or trust the aging clansmen.

So when an opportunity arises to return North to help an Apprentice Chronicler hunt down magic wielders, Shield is filled with hope.

But everything changes when Shield learns that the witch he is hunting is Birgid Wordswallow, the lover he abandoned two decades ago.  (taken from Amazon description)

This is the second book in the Hounds of the North series.  I read both the first and the most recent, and just now was able to read this one.  All three of the books work just fine by themselves.  What I've found is that each one tells a singular story, that by itself is quite entertaining.  However, if you put the three of them in order, a bigger picture begins to take shape and you find another story.  You see not only the trees, but the forest as well.  Though you can read this book by itself, I strongly suggest you begin with Witch of the Sands and then move to this one.  Though it's not necessary, it does add to the reading experience.

What I love most about this series is the desperation and determination of the characters.  Each is struggling to find his place in a world that has changed and no longer desires them.  The characters are all personalized so that each one feels like a comrade.  Normally, I would say close friend, but it's a different sort of relationship.  You're not hanging out with them over coffee and listening to their story.  You're right down in the trenches with them, slinging your blade with blood flying.  Each book follows a different destiny, so you aren't just randomly on a path.  You have a goal, a need.  You have to quench it.

This book adds a bit more than just the desperation and determination.  In this one, we find out what sort of power fear and grief hold.  What damage revenge can wreak.  We have all of these wonderful characters and they're all motivated by a different emotion.  Sadly, most of them are negative and harmful emotions that the characters just can't seem to cope with.  It makes for a fascinating, yet sad read.  It's difficult to tell who the good guys are.  I suppose there really aren't any.  Everyone has fears and mistakes in their history.  This book is a great example of what happens when you let it rule you.

Though I'm not much of a history buff, Fugazzotto really pulled me into this series.  I read the first one well over a year ago when it was first released, and the characters and story have stuck with me through time until I picked up the final two books.  There's so much action, adventure, drama, violence, witchcraft and wizardry, warriors, honor.  It's also personalized in such a way that you don't feel like an outsider.  

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