My reviews of The Chronicles of Ealiron by F.T. McKinstry continue this week with Book Two, The Gray Isles. Definitely a worthy successor to The Hunter’s Rede.
In the northern shores of Ealiron, sailors trade legends about a mythical serpent known as the loerfalos, the Mistress of the Sea. When a young serving-boy named Hemlock catches a glimpse of the Mistress, events are set into motion across the continent of Mimir. Hemlock crosses paths with Lorth of Ostarin, now a Raven seeking a spot on the Council, and Eadred, a disgraced wizard with his own dark agenda. Through an intricate plot of politics, myths, and mayhem, these three lives are bound together in a race to find the truth about Hemlock’s nature and his mystical bond with the loerfalos.
Right off the bat, this book is very different in tone and style from its predecessor. As Hunter’s Rede had to spend so much time setting up the fictional world of Ealiron and the character Lorth, Gray Isles is free to tell a more focused story with less need for worldbuilding. In that same vein, Lorth takes up the role of a deuteragonist, letting the main perspective go to young Hemlock, who becomes his quarry after he runs away from the wizards’ Conservatory and gets involved with a mythical sea serpent.
Thankfully, the dialogue in this story is much crisper and less exposition-heavy. The scenery descriptions are also more evocative than verbose; as I read, I had a strong sense of being in a northern clime by the sea, like I was back in Inishmore, the largest of the islands just west of Galway. The book brings you into cold seaside towns where boisterous sailors trade stories in heavy accents. And it brings you directly into the agony experienced by Hemlock as he struggles with revelation after revelation about his past and his transformation into an eamoire (the last few chapters alone will make you cringe in sympathy for him).
While I was a little saddened to see that Leda, the Mistress of Eusiron, only has a short cameo in this story, I’m glad to say the story doesn’t suffer for it. The Gray Isles is still a very tight and compelling tale of suspense on rocky shores and the high seas, being both a coming of age story and a hardboiled mystery set in a mythical land.
Bibliography: McKinstry, F.T. The Gray Isles (The Chronicles of Ealiron: Book Two). Markham, Ontario: Double Dragon Publishing, 2012.