Series: Seven Kennings #1
Published by Del Ray Books on October 3rd 2017
Narrator: Luke Daniels, Xe Sands
Length: 22 hrs 13 min
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.
In the start of an enchanting new series, the New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Druid Chronicles creates an unforgettable fantasy world . . . one that is forever changed when an army of giants invades. The kingdom's only hope? The discovery of a form of magic that will call the world's wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.
An amazing new series by Kevin Hearne chockfull of wonderful and compelling characters. A captivating story full of excitement, danger and sacrifice. I was so invested that I absolutely hate the fact that it ended and I have to wait for two more stories to find out what happens. This is a Must Listen To Audiobook since Luke Daniels once again brings an over the top performance and he split the narration with Xe Sands. This is my first Xe Sands audiobook, but I am going to look into her other narrations.
Note: This is a long one so get comfortable. Also, this is an audiobook review so spelling doesn’t count. 🙂
This is a the beginning of an epic tale along the lines of Lord of the Rings. It is mostly told through the storyteller, Fintan, known as the Bard. That is his Kenning or blessing. As a Bard, Fintan is blessed with perfect memory as well as an ability to take on the likeless of the person whose POV he is telling the story. Fintan collects people’s stories, whether from them directly or from their written letters or diaries. Fintan has come to the City of Brynt to advise Pelenaut Röllend that forces will be arriving from the other towns and while Fintan is there, he is being offered as entertainment to tell the story of the invasion of the giants. Since trading has been cut off and the people in the cities which have been invaded so far are all dead, most of the people aren’t familiar with how this whole invasion started or what is going on outside of their own city walls. Some are also unaware that they are facing two different sets of giants, the Bone Giants and the Fire Giants.
The main characters (but not the only characters):
Fintan is accompanied around Brynt by Dervan. Dervan was a scholar at the local college until it was closed down due to the war and he has been working as a historian for the Pelenaut. Dervan is tasked with writing down the stories told by Fintan and keeping an eye on him. Dervan is the only characters we spend time with but not through a telling by the Bard.
Nel is Fornish and she is blessed as a Greensleeve (Fifth Kenning). She has a bond with the plants and protects the canopy. She is the first to see the Harthrad giants (Fire Giants) land on the shores of the west coast. At first no one believes her until she returns with a scouting party and they are immediately attacked by the giants.
Gorin Mogen is the Hearthfire (leader) of the Harthrad giants. His people have been preparing for generations in case the volcano on their island erupted and have been building ships and keeping them stocked for decades in case they need to flee. When the volcano erupts in the middle of the night, he takes as many of his people who can make it and heads for the mainland of Ghurana Nent. While his predecessors planned to land and wait until the volcano dust settled to rebuild Harthrad, Gorin Mogen has decided that he and his people will keep the parcel of land between the Forn forest and the Nentians and becoming wood rich stealing the trees from the edge of the Fornish canopy. He believes that his blessed, the Fire born who control fire, will be able to hold the area by force until they create a City big enough and then the locals should then be happy to just trade with them. Mogen swears they are refugees, not invaders, but everyone is well aware they are not acting like suffering refugees and the wall that has appeared around his refugee camp doesn’t give the impression of temporary. The Viceroy know that the giants have no plans to ever return home but evicting invading giants who control fire is not so easy.
Viceroy Melishev Lohmet is not a nice guy. He likes to torture and kill, and he has desires on the throne. He runs the city closest to the Harthreen invaders and he is trying to figure out how to deal with getting rid of the powerful fire giants without much loss to him and to keep him looking powerful to the King and the country.
Kallindra is the daughter of a travelling merchant. We follow her around as the Eculan (Bone Giant) invasion begins. Her family is one of the first to come across an Eculan scout having no idea of the dire plans these Giants have for the people of the continent. Through her eyes, we see the world before and after the invasion.
Abhinva Khose is part of a hunting family but Abhi has no desire to be a hunter. He is trying to figure out how to break that to his family before the hunting season begins. Abhi accidentally become the first to be blessed with the Sixth Kenning (Animals).
Gondel Vedd is a linguist brought in by the Mistral of his town to try and communicate with a bone giant who was captured after he was found washed up on the shore. Through his conversation, Gondel learns that the Eculans are searching for the Seventh Kenning which it taught in their holy book but which really isn’t outlined what it is and so far Gondel isn’t able to figure it out, but he does know that the Eculans have interpreted their Book as saying that the Seventh Kenning is the only true Kenning and will be the only one left, giving the Eculans freedom to kill everyone on the continent.
The Kennings introduced are very interesting because to be blessed with a Kenning one must go through a sort of trial and you end up blessed or dead. For example, for the fire giants to be blessed with fire, you jump into a volcano. You either burn up or come out immune to fire and able to create it at will. Each area has its own blessing. The First Kenning is Fire (fire giants). The Second it wind. Those blessed control the winds. The Third is earth. They move the earth or build with stones. Fourth is water. Fifth is plants. The Sixth which is only discovered by accident by Abhi is animals. And now we need to find out what the bone giants believe is the Seventh Kenning. I also thought it was interesting that if the blessed over extend their blessing, they age prematurely. We will see how some of the characters change as they are forced to over extend to save their cities from the giants invasions.
We jump right into the story on the night of the invasion when one of the water blessed, a tidal mariner, was doing a routine night check of one of the sea beds and sees the giant fleet of bone giants. She is alone and has to figure out quickly if they are friend or foe and once she realizes that these strange giants are not coming for a visit, she has to figure what she can do to keep their boats from landing on the shore.
We eventually learn through Kallindra (the merchant’s daughter) about initial sightings of these bone giants and that no one knew what to make of these odd, pale and half nakes people. They were also unaware of their deadly intent as they scouted the mainland. I could easily believe that before an invasion, whether in a novel like this or in our own past, you might note someone’s odd behavior never realizing the evil intent behind that behavior. We also see how quickly everyone’s life changes as the bone giants invade. As they take over each city, they kill all the residents and take all of the goods. The cities which have not yet been affected are filled with people who have lost entire families or their livelihoods or both after the attacks. While the story was entertaining, the underlying premises is actually a little frightening.
When I went to the book signing back in July and listened to Kevin Hearne talk about this new series, I was concerned when he mentioned that there would be so many POVs for this book. Sometimes when I have read other stories with many POVs, I found that I would get frustrated when we bounce around so much, especially if there were characters I didn’t like or care about and I hated being drawn away from the characters I did care about.
Kevin Hearne does a fabulous job in presenting each story through the eyes of the Bard and breaking it up in a way that we keep pushing the whole story forward even though it is split amongst the different characters. They each brought necessary information to give us the whole story. I also found that each time we switched, instead of being frustrated, I was excited to get back to that next character. Each separate character caught my attention and although I had some favorites (like Abhi), there were none that I disliked.
I would highly recommend this as an audiobook as I am already a fan of Luke Daniels’ presentation of The Iron Druid Chronicles. I give him extra kudos on this one because I have listened to the same narrators for different series, and it took awhile to switch my mindset from one series to the next because I was picking out the same voices from one series to the next and being distracted by that. Luke Daniels brought a whole new set of voices with no crossover to IDC so that didn’t distract me from the narration of the story. They also brought in Xe Sands to cover the female voices and although I haven’t listened to her before, she does have a distinct set of individual characters.
I hated the fact that the story ended leaving me wanting so much more. Thankfully, this is the first of only three books as I am anxiously looking forward to the next book and what happens next in this war.
This scene follows Abhi as he is discovering that he has suddenly been blessed with the Sixth Kenning (the ability to talk to animals).
If my blessing followed the pattern of others, I would have the strongest powers possible and would take a title in keeping with it. The lavaborn have furies who can become fire and burn anything, the Kaurians have tempests who become the winde, the Raelechs have their juggernauts, the Fornish have greensleeves, and the Brynts have tidal mariners. And when they use the full power of their kenning, it ages them perceptibly. I am still as young as ever I was, I think, though I have no looking glass to see my face. My hands and skin still seem young, and my back is straight and strong. So I have yet to discover what I can do.
The Fornish are sometimes called Tree Speakers for their root and stem communication. I can sort of speak to Murr, but it’s not the same thing as what the Fornish are doing at all. And calling myself a Beast Speakers sounds…gross.
Beast Caller, perhaps?
Wondering if I could, in fact, call a beast, I attemped to do so. I surveyed the plains around me, stretching unbroken to the horizon, and saw nothing nearby. Any animals that might be within my sight were keeping out of it under the tops of the grasses. It was universal camouflage available to all.
Picturing a bluetip prairie pheasant in my mind and feeling somewhat foolish, I said aloud, “Are there any bluetips nearby? If there are, please come to say hello. I mean you no harm. I merely wish to greet you.”
Bluetips were notoriously difficult to scare up. They knew how well the grass concealed them and would fly only at the approach of four-footed predators. All swishes in the grass sounded alike, but they flushed at the sound of paws in the dirt. We’d have to practically step on them before they broke cover for us, and it was always accidental. That’s why someone always had a bow ready when we hunted; you never knew when a bluetip would take to the sky.
Too late, I rembered why they didn’t take to the sky if they could help it; there were also stalk hawks hiding in the grass, waiting for bluetips or other birds to reveal their whereabouts. Three bluetips erupted out of the grass to my left and banked in my direction, and before they had flown ten lengths, a stalk hawk shot out of the grass below them and took one of them down.
“Oh, no!” I gasped, recognising that my request had exposed them to danger. I might have meant the bluetips no harm, but almost everything else in the plains did. Perhaps I could have protected it had I thought ahead. Would a shepherd with this kenning be able to protect his flock from predators, never lose a sheep, that kind of thing?
I held out my arms to either side, inviting the remaining bluetips to perch there if they wished. They did, but they looked nervous about it and minced awkwardly on my forearms, trying not to dig into my skin with their talons. They were right; it was a terrible idea.
Go and be safe in the grass,” I told them. “Thank you for saying hello.”
They chirped, hopped into the grass near my feet, and waddled away. A grin spread across my face until I recalled that there should have been three of them walking around. My family should still be walking around, too. My primary talent so far was not thinking through the possible consequences of my actions. Even when I tried to think ahead, events never turned out the way I thought they would.
Perhaps calling something smaller would be better. Could I call insects? “Are there any bugs nearby?” I asked. I knew that there were, of course; I’d seen a few zipping around here and there. But after I made that general query, a dense cloud of buzzing, thrumming insects rose all around me, blocking out the sun. “Ahh! Silly question! Never mind! As you were!” The swarm of assorted flying creatures dropped back into the grasses to eat and be eaten, and I shuddered even though it wasn’t cold. If the smaller creatures of the world ever organized to wipe out the larger ones, they would most definitely win.
It would be useful to know what kind of animals there were in an area–and h0w many–without call them individually with a demand to show themselves. Far less annoying to the animals as well. But did I possess that ability? If so, how would I access it? The information wasn’t readily available to my consciousness. I had to do something.
My thoughts before had focused on specific animals. What if instead I focused on an area?
I visualized myself in the middle of an area of a hundred lengths square, focused my thoughts, and wondered how many creatures of any kind might exist in that space. My reward was an instant, staggering headache that made me clutch my head.
“Ahh. Okay, too much,” I said aloud. The sheer number of insects in such an area would be too many to count. I tried again: a smaller area, only fifty lengths square, and a query about mammals only. The images came quickly and were blessedly pain-free: A family of prairie voles on my right. Barley shrews behind me to my left. Ahead on my left, a ratchater sniffing out the voles but waiting for me to pass by. Nothing else.
I tried birds in the same area next. The bluetips and the stalk hawk were there, but also a pair of gharel hens bedded down for the day off to my right and about twenty tiny fly fishers that would flock at night, skimming the grass tips for insects. I repeated the process for snakes and lizards, the spiders, and didn’t ask about insects again.
There was so much hidden on the plains that I could uncover now. Of great use to me would be discovering a source of water: these animals must be drinking something.
Focusing on the stalk hawk, which was still filing its belly on the bluetip, I asked it, “Where can I find water near here?” It screeched at me, annoyed at being interruped, but they were fast eaters and I imaged it had eaten quite enough already. “Please show me where,” I said. Another screech, and the stalk hawk swooped and climbed and swooped again at a point ahead of me. I saw nothing special there until I fell into a small pond that had been completely hidden by the tops of the grasses. It was not huge–the size of my bedroom at home–but it held plenty of water that I could boil to remove any plagues that might be living in it.
I smiled and thanked the stalk hawk. My water problem was solved, and I probably had enough dry food to last to Khul Bashab. Nothing would eat me on the way there. I would live!
Until I got there, I supposed. Then what? How would I announce to the city–and thus to the world–that I had discovered the Sixth Kenning? How would I do it without immediately placing myself in jeopardy?