The Riddle (Pellinor, Book 2), by Alison Croggon

Earlier I reviewed The Naming by Alison Croggon, visit this which was the first book in this quartet. Book 2, drug luckily, web follows almost precisely where book 1 left off. (I mention this because book 3 follows a different set of characters.)

At the end of book 1, our Intrepid Heroine (Maerad) has been charged with finding the Treesong and with not getting killed (since she is, after all, the Fated One). After a sufficient recap of the former events, this starts with a trip up north and out of the way of the Bards. Although some Bards are good, like Cadvan, her teacher, some are bad and trying to kill her, like nearly the entire rest of the country. (Even some of the non-evil ones have enough of a belief in authority to report her to their higher-ups, who are often evil.) As she and Cadvan head north, they find more danger and more evidence of the Winterking’s sway over the northern lands. The Winterking is an elemental; in a fairy-tale like fashion, he was once in love with a mortal (who was male, in case you’re worried by that, but it’s not explicit at all) and that ended badly. Very badly. Maerad’s travels lead her to her (deceased) father’s people, who are sort of cross between gypsies and Inuit, and even farther north, searching for clues to her riddle.

I can’t really describe more of the plot, since it’s a bit less coherent than the last book. Oddly enough, I didn’t describe the plot of the last book at all, since it was fairly formulaic epic YA fantasy. This book was much less formulaic and introduced all sorts of interesting new cultures, from the people of Busk who are passionate and creative, to the northern Pilanel and the solitary peoples of Tlon.

There are moments of realistic emotion in this book, from a meeting with the brother of a deceased character from the first book throwing Maerad into a tailspin, to her meeting with her aunts and cousins among the Pilanel. The language is also pretty much the same as the first book, if perhaps a little less Bardic (fewer characters who are Bards). I still feel that Maerad reacts realistically to being a sixteen-year-old girl in her situation. She remains human, despite her powers, heritage, personal history, and the constant reminders that she is supposed to Save the World. Other characters seem to have sensible reactions and motivations as well. Even minor characters are fairly well-drawn, such as a very old Pilanel lady who heals Maerad from snow-related injuries and provides her with an essential clue.

While this book does move the overall story arc forward, we’re only halfway done yet. Reading this gives a sense of frustration, since book 3 (to be reviewed once I finish it) follows Maerad’s brother Hem into the southern lands, and book 4 won’t be published until next year . . . in Australia, no less.

If you enjoyed the first book, with all its poetic and semi-formal language, then you will definitely enjoy the second book and its exploration of the lands, people, and history of Annar and the bordering lands. However, the book gave me a bit of a sense of frustration, since I can’t have the next Maerad installment RIGHT NOW, and I’d be remiss in not warning for that. However, it gets 4.5/5 stars and it’s an easy recommendation for anyone who enjoyed book 1. I wouldn’t recommend reading it without The Naming, though.

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