Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Valley of the Shadow by Christina Ochs is the second book in The Desolate Empire series. You can read my review of the first book, Rise of the Storm, here. In the spirit of avoiding spoilers, this review will use intentionally vague language and focus more heavily on my reactions to the novel as opposed to its content.
Picking right up where Rise of the Storm left off, Valley of the Shadow begins by following the aftermath of a large battle. Throughout the novel, the characters on either side of the empire’s opposing forces attempt to lobby for their side, as well as find a piece of happiness and respite from the misery of war.
Stylistically, Valley of the Shadow reads much like its predecessor – the chapters are short and the perspectives rotate, keeping the reader moving quickly, but smoothly, through the action. There is never a dull moment, and each chapter leaves the reader anxiously awaiting the next turn of events.
As for the characters, Ochs continues their development with steadiness and grace. More and more layers of their personalities are revealed as they are put through harrowing trials and given small victories. It’s probably evident from my language, but several of the characters face traumatizing events. The overall mood of Valley of the Shadow is rather bleak, and things seem to go from bad to worse for characters on both sides of the war. However, through it all, Ochs offers enough moments of comedy (and a few key victories) to balance out the heartache. And, as I already alluded, the resulting character development from these tragedies is inspiring and satisfying.
Overall, I enjoyed Valley of the Shadow just as much, if not more, than Rise of the Storm. The pace is quick, without being neck-snapping, the characters are complex and appropriately lovable or hate-able, and the conclusion wraps up enough plot lines to be satisfying, but leaves enough open to have the reader anxious for the next book. As always, Ochs’s writing style is eloquent enough to captivate the reader, but straight-forward enough as to not get in the way of the story. Her world is detailed and only becomes more interesting as she reveals more of it to the reader.
For those of you on the fence about reading Rise of the Storm or Valley of the Shadow, I’ll leave you with this final thought: This series is Game of Thrones without the literal magic (so far) and with tasteful fade-to-black that keeps it appropriate for all ages. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys fantasy, action, medieval-style tales, and good old-fashioned sword fighting.
If you are interested in reading Valley of the Shadow and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.