Today's post is on 'The Riddle' by Alison Croggon and is the second book in the Pellinor quartet . It is published by Candlewick Press. It is 490 including notes and maps. In this series you really need to start at the beginning to understand the story, the first book is The Naming. The intended reader is Young Adult but anyone with a love of high fantasy will like it. There Be Spoilers Ahead.
The story picks up just where it stopped in The Naming with Maerad and Cadvan fleeing from the great bard city of Norloc. They are now pursued by both the Light and the Dark and by the elemental being known as The WinterKing. The Nameless One has an army to the south getting ready to attack the town where Maerad's brother Hem is. Maerad and Cadvan go north because of a dream that Maerad had that the answers she needed where to the north. Norloc begins to tighten its hold of the schools of barding. This adventure begins dark and stays dark all the way. Maerad does not trust herself anymore because of how wild her elemental powers are. She kills a fellow bard and in doing that she can feel the darkness in her own heart. Cadvan is at a loss of how to reach her or help her so he does the only he can, he keeps them moving north. Then the powerful WinterKing, a being of pure elemental power, attacks them when they are most vulnerable. Maerad now alone must continue the quest north. She meets family from her father's side but the price she has to pay to get her answers is terrible.
To start with I did not like this one as much as The Naming. I think that is because this one is so very dark. Normally I like the middle parts of a story or play the best. The most character development happens but not this time. The focus of this book is really how much suffering Maerad has to endure. I know that all characters suffer and that prices must be paid to save the world but it is too much. The little light this story has is always over-whelmed by the dark. Maerad finds her father's family but her cousin is brutally killed because of her. It is not her fault but because she is wanted by The WinterKing that he dies. Cadvan is dead for most of the story. Maerad is maimed because of the carelessness of her kidnappers. It is just too much. I read the 200 pages very quickly just to get it over with. When you are reading a story and just want it done something is wrong. I think that Croggon wanted to explore the darkness that both hunts Maerad and also lives in her own heart but I can think of better ways to it. On the good side the writing is solid, the characters are still believable, and the reader still cares about the over all journey. I hope the last of this series are not as dark.
My rating is Three and a Half Stars.