Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Hills and Valleys is the third novel in Helen Jones’s Ambeth Chronicles. You can read my review of the first two books, Oak and Mist and No Quarter by clicking on their titles. To avoid major spoilers for all three novels, I will focus this review more on my personal reaction to the text and the writing itself, and will refer to the content in broad terms. That being said, some mild spoilage will occur. You’ve been warned.
As with No Quarter, Hills and Valleys picks up right where the previous book left off. The reader is launched right back into England and Ambeth, as Alma and the members of the Light grieve the tragedy that befell them at the end of No Quarter. Right away, it is clear that Hills and Valleys will have a more serious tone than the previous two novels, signalling both a maturing in Alma as a character and the growing threat in the quest to return the Regalia (whether Alma chooses to continue helping or not).
For me, this grieving period lasted a little longer than I would have liked. While I understand and respect Jones’s choice to spend a decent portion of the book working through the character’s emotional distress, I would have preferred for the action to move along at the same time. Chess pieces were slowly put into place, but some of the conversations and debates between the Light and Dark in Ambeth seemed repetitive, and I wish more space would have been allowed to show the development of Alma’s powers (which, though fantastic, seemed to emerge a bit out of nowhere for me).
Speaking of Alma, I believe she really comes into her own as a character in Hills and Valleys. She shows strength and independence in situations where I feel she might have faltered in previous books (especially with her support of her mother and her interaction with Deryck), and toward the end of the book, she accepts rather dramatic revelations with admirable calmness. Likewise, the supporting characters reveal new layers to their personalities as well. Deryck and Ellery both face complex moral and emotional conundrums, Lord Denoris unveils new levels of delicious evil, and King Thorion gives us more insight into his personal struggles.
As with the entire series, the settings in Hills and Valleys are beautifully described. The jewel of the Ambeth Chronicles remains Ambeth itself, and seeing it from a new character’s perspective made me fall in love with it all over again. Moreover, the introduction of Wales made for a gorgeous (and symbolic!) backdrop, and I’m pleased that it will feature in the next novel, too.
If you’ve been a fan of the Ambeth Chronicles thus far, everything you love is still there: the wonder of Ambeth, the twisting turns of the quest for the Regalia, and the enchanting sparks of magic. If you’re a fantasy lover who has not explored this series yet, I highly recommend you jump on board. Between developed, emotive characters, dazzling magic, stunning scenery, and dashes of romance Ambeth has something for everyone.
As for this novel itself, Hills and Valleys is a brilliant continuation of the series that will leave readers hungry for the next step in the journey. I know I can’t wait.
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