Cephrael’s Hand by Melissa McPhail – Review


Published: December 5, 2014 (This ed.)

Publisher: Five Strands Publishing

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 780 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0


“All things are composed of patterns…” And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:

In Alorin…three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor’s brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D’Lacourte’s mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he’ll have to find him…

In the kingdom of Dannym…the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord…

In the Nadori desert…tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.

As I continued in my exploration of the SFF genre, I stumbled across Cephrael’s Hand, which at the very least promised great cover art. I decided to go with the audio format on this occasion, simply because it’s a long book and Nick Podehl is a consistently great narrator, particularly for books with larger casts. And boy, did this one have a large cast! There are so many characters, both major and minor, that at times it took me a moment to remember who was who.

Melissa McPhail was truly ambitious with her debut novel, weaving a story of great complexity and fleshing out a world that has 300+ years of history, many countries, and countless machinations. I won’t attempt to explain the plot here because the synopsis does a better job of summarizing it succinctly than I could, but trust me when I say you’ll be impressed. What stood out to me the most was her skill in giving her characters memorable names- they just roll right off the tongue and long after you read the book you can still recall the names, which is surprisingly difficult when you start reading 8-10 books per month. The deities and other non-human entities were also really cool – I mean, who wouldn’t want Sun Dragons that could shapeshift into human forms? Or Shades, with their chrome visages and dark magic?

There are several main POVs in Cephrael’s Hand– Ean Val Lorian, Trell of the Tides, and Alyneri, though there are a hefty handful of other minor POVs as well. Ean was interesting and relatively likable, though he had a sense of idealism that was really frustrating at time – the equivalent of Ned Stark’s honor. Trell was my favorite main POV, with his mysterious origins and journey to find out the truth of his past being the bulk of his story. I definitely would have preferred more Trell and less Alyneri, as she was a whining, petty little witch who couldn’t let go of a perceived wrong in her past. By the middle of the book I was hoping she would get over herself or better yet, meet an untimely end at the hands of Bethamin’s devotees. This was compounded by the fact that Nick Podehl made her voice sound whinier than it probably should have, which certainly didn’t help matters. Though he didn’t get as much page time as the big three, Tanis the young truth-reader is my favorite. He holds much potential and has more insight than his elders.

Cephrael’s Hand was a very good book, but didn’t quite reach GREAT status, and certainly not FANTASTIC status. It had moments of intense action and interest interspersed by lulls that seemed to drag on forever and it was difficult to listen to while working on something else (good book for car rides though). It’s definitely worth checking out, especially since the ebook is under $5.


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