|Art by Justin Gerard|
Reintroducing us to the half-giantess, Thianna, and a barbarian gamer named Karn, Nightborn picks up right where the first book picked up as well, with the two friend being swept up into an unexpected adventure that introduces us to new lands, new thrills, and most importantly, new characters that grab the reader from page one.
World-building plays a huge part into Anders' writing style, often making up a good chunk of his narrative. There is a loving amount of detail injected into Nightborn, and for a second novel, it opens the world of Norrengod to places beyond its Viking-trappings. I was delighted by the multiplicity of cultures, creatures, and settings this one book held. The Uskirians, for example, take tried and true tropes of D&D orcs and really does something wonderful with them, making them flamboyant in a way I had not imagined. Whether it was a Flittermouse, a Chimera, or Anders' brilliantly classical interpretation of dragons, there is so much to digest, even for the most jaded adult reader.
With his world broadened beyond Karn and Thianna's original borders, Anders ups the thrills from last time as well, with new games, properly balanced riddles, and exciting action that you can only find this side a MANTICORE race! Whether it's swooping wyverns, climactic sword fights, or the well-place chase, the real wonder of Nightborn isn't in its action, but in the presentation of its action. Save for a few snafus here and there, where the text is sometimes a little murky, there is a true mindfulness to the madness. This reader never felt that Karn and Thianna were in dire threat, but the weight of what was going on was real enough to keep me turning pages. In a genre filled with carefully choreographed sequences that often flop, sometimes it was just fun to sit back and enjoy the ride!
Yet the real gem of Nightborn is Desstra, a spunky dark elf who Anders weaves into his series as if she had been there all along. As many of you may know, I have a certain affinity for dark elf characters, but she completely caught me off guard. Both sweet and able, she adds so much to the Karn-Thianna dynamic that I was bursting with joy when I finally reached the end. "A half-giant, a barbarian, and a devious little elf" stole the show together. I love stories where friendship, trust, and empathy take the forefront of fantasy, and Nightborn gives me a trio I want to read more of in the future.
Heavy on the Lloyd Alexander when sharpened with Rowling, Lou Anders has hit his follow-up to Frostborn right out of the park. With a new games, challenges, and adventures, Thianna and Karn have returned for a rollicking good time in Nightborn!