Book Review: Racing with the Serpent (The Telverin Trilogy) by ARK Horton

Racing with the Serpent

Series: The Telverin Trilogy, #3

Author: A.R.K. Horton

Genre: Fantasy

Book Description:

You can’t ignore destiny when it breaks down your barriers, even if it means defeating a god.

Eya has found safety among friends, but she knows it’s only temporary. The battle is far from over, and she has a duty to protect Telverin from the power-hungry. With true allies by her side and unique abilities, it’s only a matter of time before she wins back her home and rescues the goddess winds. Yet, Eya’s recklessness might mean her ruin. Can she learn to control her impulses, the way she’s learning to control the elements?

Rating: Intriguing, Immersive (Isn’t it awesome not using stars?!), Thoughtful

The Short Review:

I waded right into Racing with the Serpent as soon as I finished Flirting with the Tempest. It was really easy to feel for all the characters, and like before, the shifts between perspective were done perfectly. The blossoming of Eya and Daijah’s love was so good to finally see. Eya’s journey through fear, through rage, through the belief that she’s a monster, into self-knowledge and confidence has a lot of depth to it. I enjoyed seeing Immelda realize who she wants to be and how she wants to deal with the court, as she is ruling Pescel as Queen Esamne’s Regent.

It was a very involved story, with a lot of character growth. Full of hope, confidence, and growth, at the same time without shying from the things that go very, very wrong, from flaws and even horrors committed by the growing protagonist, and from the horrors and atrocities that happen to people. The way that fear and anger express themselves in Eya’s life, and sometimes cause falls, and how that is dealt with, was really well-done. The love between her and Cefa is as heart-warming as ever, as is the growth of her relationship with Daijah. She’s got so many people who really care about her, and who she really cares about, and that was a prominent theme. Even when they fight and quarrel and hurt each other’s feelings. Then there’s Rhin, who worships her.

Another thing that was really awesome, in my opinion, is the continued growth of Eya’s relationship to the natural world. I really loved how she works with Nakta’s daughters, the stones and plants and earth everywhere, and Eha’s daughters, the winds, and Shoya’s daughters, the dragons, and Wulsa’s daughters. Speaking of which, Scorpa and her pet kraken are really cool. And there’s a vine that is oh, so awesome, that helps Eya and is such a friend! It was really awesome, in my opinion. Also, I like how Shoya’s daughters, the dragons, are only for times of justice, never rage.

Now, in my opinion, the best part of the review is still to come. I feel like I am cheating all of you who don’t like spoilers (or rather, who think there is such a thing as spoilers) by withholding the best parts from you, the parts that prove this is a book to read! But, out of respect to other people’s preferences and experiences, I end the short review here and go on to …

The Continued Review: (Do not enter if you are not friends with spoilers!!)

One of the parts I really loved was how Terald and Hat took down the Serenchean factory system. How they infiltrated it as factory workers, taking the pretty horrific risks that involved (Serencheans have some mages or something who seem to be able to burn most of a person’s mind out if they aren’t a good, mindless, productive factory worker who doesn’t even try to have a life already). How Terald does everything he can to protect children from the most dangerous jobs, and they try, with what energy they have left, to convince the Serencheans, even when it seemed hopeless and the Serencheans don’t respond and just want to give up, or keeping living as those who’ve given up … well, here’s a quote:

“She’ll never be the Queen of Serenchea,” Hat said, looking into her eyes. “But you could be.”

The woman crossed her arms and let out an amused snort.

“Or you could be the King,” Hat said to the next man his eyes fell on. “Or maybe we just toss out the idea of Kings and Queens entirely. None of them would last a day in these factories. Why should they have any control here?”

“You know that’s right!” the man in the back called out and a round of clapping hands demonstrated the crowd’s agreement.

A younger woman, barely more than a girl, walked toward Hat, her hands and shoulders raised in confusion. “But, how could we do any of that? How could Queen Esamne even do that? We can’t even leave a line without punishment.”

“Only because we’ve all agreed to their stupid rules,” Hat countered.

The crowd muttered, their tone shifting to annoyance.

“What I mean to say is that there’s more of us than there are of them, if we all work together, they couldn’t punish us.”

And then this poignant thought:

Terald fell asleep thinking of their blank stares. Serenchean factories had beaten the life out of these people. It was harder than he thought to inspire the dead to fight against injustice.

And then, when finally, the people are convinced that something needs to change, that the risk is worth of it, it was soo good! When they went to work in the factories, instead of working, they immediately started to sabotage everything, boldly and without even trying to hide it – in fact, showing that they were not hiding it. They all start pouring machine oil on the fabric, ripping it to shreds, jamming the machines with metal utensils – everything and anything! It was hilarious!

And then the jewel, the crown …

Gil is a man whose wife and daughter just got taken away from him to be “corrected” – the incident that spurred the sudden conviction of the factory prisoners.

“I don’t even know where they go,” Gil said, his head hanging low. “I wish I did.”

“I think I know someone who does.” [said Terald]

Standing outside, staring into the distance was the corrected woman Terald watched the day before. It was a long shot. She didn’t seem to comprehend anything other than the rote work given to her, but Terald had to try. After all, she would definitely know where to go.

Terald and Gil ran up to her. Her glassy eyes looked at Terald.

“We need your help,” Terald said. “We need to know where they did this to you.”

She said nothing, only touched Terald’s face.

“Please,” Gil cried. “My wife, my girl. I can’t let them get hurt.”

The woman continued staring up at Terald’s face, silent tears flowed down from her unfocused eyes, collecting at the hollow of her throat.

“Free?” she asked, stunning both Terald and Gil.

Terald nodded with enthusiasm. “Free.”

“Free.” The woman turned and pointed up a hill in the South. Then, with labored, clumsy steps, she walked in that direction, with Gil and Terald by her side.

And then there is such sweetness. I said I really liked Nakta’s daughters.

Hello, Embodiment.

Eya smiled. “Hello, Pine. I hope you’re not too lonely on this hill by yourself.”

I’m never alone. My roots touched all the roots around me and they touch all around them. We are all connected forever. I am always with my family.

There’s a Cuvanos story in the book that I can’t now find. I think Sember tells it to Novem, who thinks it it sad. I liked it in a way. In the story, there is a child in a clan of Cuvanos who keeps wandering off. Everytime, the whole clan stops everything else to look for the child. An outsider asks them why they care so much about the child, and the Cuvanos reply something like that the clan isn’t whole if it’s missing even one member. So the child wanders off again, and the clan searches for the child, and the child falls in a river and drowns, and the whole clan is caught by a flash flood and drowns.

At the beginning of the book, Pecu whispers fear into Eya and makes her too afraid to access her powers. Then, later, she overcomes the fear and overcomes it with anger. The dragons have told her they are for times of need and danger, never for times of rage, and she calls them once to help her get to where she thinks Daijah is. But when she finds Daijah isn’t there, she unleashes the fire and loses it, and kills everyone. Then she discovers there were lots of Hicarean prisoners there, and she killed them all when she could have saved them all. It’s especially heart-breakingly since just previously they passed through a Hicarean village and she promised a little girl she would rescue and get her daddy back if she could. So then Eya becomes so afraid that she is turning into a monster and she’s worse than useless. But she’s not evil, and she does have flaws and make mistakes, and at the heart of it, she intends what’s right, and she really, really loves Daijah, who also really loves her so much.

That was one of the most beautiful scenes ever. Eya and Daijah are captives in The Tower, but they don’t get to meet or see each other at all, tortured in different ways. Eya is allowed to regain her power so she can open the Statue of the Goddess Winds (a bit more complicated than that, but I don’t want to explain all of it), and so she can speak again to the nature around her. A vine grows into the towers, and helps her, and I thought it was so sweet. How she gives the vine water, and the vine frees her, and they ask the stones to move.

She pressed her palms against a brick to the left of the door. “Talk to your brothers and sisters. Spread the news through this whole building. Make a new door for every cell.”

Our job is to keep the prisoners here.

“It doesn’t have to be,” Eya said. “Your job can be whatever you want it to be. But if you want me to get out of here and free your mother, you should help me set every last prisoner free.”

The brick went silent. A leafy tendril gave Eya a start as it climbed over her shoulder.

Change is hard for my stony sisters.

“I can see that,” Eya said.

They’ll come around.

It was so, so beautiful. And Eya’s words to the stones, her own discovery to herself – they hold true for all of us. And I have to mention Cefa’s love for Eya again, and Eya and Daijah’s devotion to each other, oh yes, and it was kind of touching, Peg helping Immelda through her issues of dealing at court and being herself.

“No,” Immelda said, shaking her head. “More than that. The temptress. The little woman. I know what body parts I have, but I am not my body. I am … I am …”

Immelda stood in front of a mirror and held it in front of her. “This,” she said, admiring what she saw. “Regent Pleffort would look like this.”

Peg walked up behind her and looked at the vision in the mirror. “Yes, let’s make this happen.”

Terror gripped Immelda’s heart in an instant. “What will the representatives think?”

“They’ll think whatever they want to, but they won’t say anything because Queen Esamne left you in charge, not them,” Peg answered. “Now, let’s talk about your hair. Do we want it up or down? Makeup or no makeup?”

Their friendship and interaction is so touching and genuine. Right now to Immelda’s loss of confidence and conviction in herself and the way Peg and she work through it together.

Maybe I should say something about the end, about the final face-down with Pecu and all that stuff, but somehow I don’t have much to say about it at the moment, so this will have to do.

ARK Horton’s Website

Review for Book One: Struggling with the Current

Review for Book Two: Flirting with the Tempest

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