After the first book proper, THE POWER OF CONVICTION, with THE PATH OF SALVATION, the second book in THE LIGHT OF DARKNESS epic fantasy series by Catrin Russell, I am finding myself already faced with a problem that I’ve only expected to occur in such magnitude later on in the series. And that challenge is to write everything I experienced reading this book, everything that happens in the story, doing it all justice, and yet, not giving away any spoilers.
You see, the problem is, this book is so full of a rollercoaster ride of emotions, so thick in twists and turns in the plot that I didn’t see coming, I cannot give you any details, really, without giving vital things away that you should totally experience yourself. Because, what a ride that is going to be!!!
So for this, I must concentrate mainly on the emotional part and character development of this second book and in this, there is already so much to write. Take Anaya, for example. She has been raised in the priesthood from small, having a mindset akin to a religious sect, you could even say, the members of the priesthood, especially those who have spent their lives and even childhood there, are completely brainwashed and senior priestess Anaya, and also the older senior priestess Adena, are the prime examples of this.
If you draw parallels to sects in real life where members have been driven to serve a great master, commit mass suicide, and so forth, you will find parallels in the psychological makeup of these members and what author Catrin Russell describes in these main characters in her priesthood. Even the more rebellious, free-spirited ones like Edric and Kaedin still don’t question the fundamental core beliefs. Until events unfold with Anaya at their centre when meeting the panther demon Samael that create a ripple effect of finally questioning the teachings and fanaticism of their High Priest Ekelon.
Of course, nothing is straightforward. Just as in real life, nagging doubts occur, at first, to be silenced and reasons found to talk yourself out of it. You find arguments to strengthen the leader’s teachings and justify his or her superior wisdom. You have faith and you don’t want to shake the foundations of all you have known to be true and right in your life. There is an emotional bond, a feeling of great gratitude and devotion mixed with the fear of the unknown, the new, the danger of losing your friends, your community and even facing retaliation by them.
This process of budding doubts, of awakening awareness and questioning comes in an ebb and flow, in a sprouting of new seeds planted and first pulling them out like weeds but upon their return, having to face them again, unable to let go entirely. Because you can’t undo your spirit striving for freedom. In thought and deed. And when love is involved, that is the highest power there is.
So there comes a time when the protection of your love overrides the protection of your belief system. Even for people in communities with so much mental force and control as a sect or a priesthood as we encounter in The Light of Darkness.
Once Anaya finds herself on this path of mental liberation, it is interesting to see who follows her and takes her side, at first in secret and later in open confrontation, the details of which, I will leave you to discover. You will be surprised, however, I promise.
But Anaya’s story, though standing at the center of this series (thus far and I think it will continue this way) is not the only one. There is the young healer Lenda who starts on her path from being a bashful, sweet and shy teenager to becoming a formidable – and courageous – haler in her own right. Edric, the former criminal and victim of child abuse learns to trust and love his new wife Vixen a formidable warrior who has broken down all his defences one by one as she would break her opponents’ defences on the battlefield.
And yet, neither of them is as predictable as it seems at first. Edric finds renewed strength while old wounds open up again and again, bleeding and festering, and Vixen has to face her own (metaphorical) demons that threaten to destroy her mental health and relationship with her husband.
But the humans are not the only ones who stand to have to face changes and challenges. Samael, the Prime Protector of the Panther Tribe has to face the consequences of his actions. His entire world is turned upside down and on top of it, he also has to contend with the pressure his mother, the formidable and headstrong Matriarch of his tribe, exerts on him in general and even more so now because of the recent events.
Lillith is a mother worthy of her feline demonic form. She is strong, unafraid and has no patience with opposition or tiresome people. She will face her son’s wrath brought on by the “bond” he has formed unwittingly, and yet, she is also unconditionally loving as a mother and honours the traditions and spirituality of her people greatly without being blinded by fanaticism like the High Priest Ekelon who keeps amassing life subjects in his cave he uses for his inhumane experiments on demons. To bring it to the point, one thrives, while the other is slowly digging his own grave.
And that brings us to Samael, the demon that has got the ball rolling not only in Anaya’s head but most of all in her heart. As a loner and socially inept person without any ambitions towards wielding power over his own people as he was intended to, he undergoes his own very drastic change and growth as Book 2 of this series unfolds. He is no longer only responsible for himself alone and when the point comes where he has to acknowledge that a) old prophesies are not merely a lot of hot air, and b) he develops a budding desire to take his place in society after all with the knowledge of having greater responsibility now, not only for himself alone, any longer.
All these feelings he isn’t familiar with drive him to distraction and urge him into directions he doesn’t understand is neither familiar nor comfortable with. But he embraces them nonetheless and in doing so, shows more humanity than most humans do in this story.
The Path of Salvation is full of seeming opposites, of conflicts internally and externally. There are curveballs life throws at the characters that had me gasping for air in pain, in relief, in joy and in abject terror. The final scene in the first book had me in tears and so did the first of this. And those weren’t the only tears I shed throughout reading this book.
I was so moved at times, that I had to jump up and clap my hands with glee, take time out to stem the flow of tears to regain clarity of vision enough to continue reading and all the other emotions under the rainbow. I was clutching my heart at the sweetness of Lenda’s and Eden’s innocent and pure love for each other, facepalming myself repeatedly over Edric and Vixen, despising Adena and Ekelon with a vengeance – and the list goes on.
The book hangover from this instalment was quite severe and it took me a couple of days to even write this review because I had to work through my own emotions still after I had finished reading. Needless to say, though, I am dying to dive right into the third book, THE RESURGENCE OF LIGHT.
As to the storyline, I have by now learned to expect the unexpected but have made the experience that I am still completely taken by surprise. So much happened I thought I saw coming and then it did but suddenly, things were totally different and then… yeah! Those twists and turns had me literally jump up and groan or roar. Or I stood, book in one hand, air sword in the other, enacting the battle scenes as if I were right in the middle of it, in the body of whoever was told of at any particular point in the book.
To feel into all the different characters with their distinctly unique personalities came so easily. The characters leap off the pages and the action is so compelling that you feel you are right in the middle of it and cannot help but follow the story at fever pitch because it feels like it concerns your own existence.
Another thing that I have to highlight and praise is the fact that the author completely avoids info-dumping. She doesn’t explain and describe her entire world/universe right at the start and overwhelm you with an endless string of information but, over the course of the story, as it progresses, she weaves in information where it naturally fits into the story and is important for you to know at the time in order to follow the story with the understanding that you need at that time. And yes, she will expand your knowledge and awareness by adding small things, little hints or flashback memories of a character, revealing a backstory.
Russell uses different stylistic tools to enhance and expand your understanding and knowledge of her world and characters, their way of life, background and also the laws that govern the magic, biology and life in the characters’ respective societies, demons and humans alike. In this, it is not like someone dropping a huge boulder on your head but more like easily and unhurriedly with every natural breath, blowing up a balloon. It’s perfect and I love it. Especially as I could never have retained all this information (of which I am sure there is so much more to come), had I been presented with it all at once at the beginning without having any connection to the world or the people and creatures inhabiting it. The ease and natural flow with which Russell weaves her strands of events as well as interlinking information into one big, ever-expanding whole, is uncanny and ingenious.
So if you are not afraid of the intensity of the emotions this book brings forth, the surprises that have you gasping for air and the challenges that characters face that will also make you question your own views of the world if you’re not completely braindead, you will want to start reading this series right now. The good thing is, it is already complete, so at whatever pace your progress, you do not have to wait for the next instalment anymore.
Books by Catrin Russell
A KINGDOM SCARRED SERIES
DARKNESS DIVIDED SERIES
Deathfall Wraith (Prequel 1)
Follow Catrin Russell on Social Media
Catrin Russell is a Fantasy and Romance author from northern Sweden. Her books are all written in English and are mainly part of the Epic and High Fantasy Genre. However, she does use influences from Dark Fantasy, and a touch of Fantasy Romance.
Growing up outside a small town, basically in the middle of nowhere, Catrin eventually moved to Stockholm, where she studied computer game development and design. Meeting her soon-to-become husband online, she lived outside of London for the best parts of a year, before finally settling down in Piteå, back in Sweden. Since then, three children and two dogs have joined the family.
With a background in design and holding a degree as a registered nurse, she writes novels in medieval settings, with plenty of action and romance. She often brings moral struggles, or highlights issues in society, into her writing. Another subject that is often highlighted is mental health.
Catrin also creates concept art, bringing her characters to life on the screen, and her own cover designs, much of which can be seen on her social media pages.