Monday, March 16, 2020

Book Review: 'Lightning and Flames (Blood of Titans: Reforged, #2)' by V.S. Holmes

Lightning and Flames by V.S. Holmes

Another solid volume of the REFORGED series!

Massachusetts author V.S. Holmes earned her degree Biology for Keene State College and works as a contract archaeologist doing Cultural Resource Management, supplementing her interest in prehistoric people and stone tools. As a disabled and queer human, Holmes is an advocate and sponsor for those writing with disabilities, and is a significant advocate for the LGBTQ community. Her writing is in the SFF genre (Science Fiction Fantasy) and to date she has contributed short stories to four anthologies, as well as her own books – the STARSEDGE: NEL BENTLEY series, and her acclaimed REFORGED series, of which SMOKE AND RAIN was the initial volume, having won the 2015 New Apple Literary Excellence in Independent Publishing Award. LIGHTNING AND FLAMES is Volume 2. Holmes hosts the Amphibian Press Podcast. 

It is most satisfying to discover that, in addition to the impact of Volume 1, this continuation of her epic tale is an even more polished novel. The atmosphere surrounding this saga is intoxicatingly real, despite the knowledge that this is a fantasy fiction. And that quality – related in eloquent and imaginative prose – suffuses every aspect of this installment. Holmes’s central heroine Alea is fully mature, as a character and as a creation, and she is accompanied by the cast of characters who have become credible even in their fantasy-imposed origins

Once again Holmes opens with a calendar image from this ‘other place and time’ and maps of the fantasy worlds. Her prose radiantly raises the curtain with atmosphere: ‘The wind off the ocean bit at Alea’s cheeks with salty teeth. She smiled, not minding the cold. It was a lover’s bite, nothing more. She preferred the hour just before dawn. The city below barely stirred. It was as if she were the only woman in the world. It should not have been a comforting thought. She leaned on the palace parapet. Below, a runner was bringing her letter to the queen and to Arman, She hated goodbye, hated explaining herself. The Dhoah’ Laen shouldn’t have to explain herself so often…Nervous was such a simple word. Emotions were not simple things. Yes, she was nervous. She was terrified…’ 

While some readers may fear the plethora of strange names, in Holmes’ skilled hands the verbiage becomes additive and thoroughly important. The quite condensed synopsis suggests the adventure ahead: ‘Blood stains the land. With the gods' desperation, Azirik's mania grows. Away from her newfound family, Alea struggles to control the horrors in her mind and the power in her veins. What she must learn, however, is very different from the lessons the Laen wish to teach. Stuck waiting in a foreign city, Arman wrestles with new, fathomless fury. Coupled with the inertia of battle, his rage shatters friendships and taints alliances. Lives depend on what they learn, but war does not make time for history lessons.‘

This REFORGED volume elevates the reader even more, adding to the obvious stature of V.S. Holmes’ literary presence. Very Highly recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.