I am back with the second part of my three-part special for The Maer Cycle by Dan Fitzgerald. You can find my review for book one ‘Hollow Road’ (Here) and the post for the third book, as well as a truly epic giveaway will be up shortly and all I can say is that you need to read this series asap!
In Hollow Road (book 1), three companions discovered the monsters of legend were all too real…
Rumors among the Maer tell of an underground library called the Archive, which houses a wealth of knowledge and terrible magics that could be used to start the biggest war seen since the Great Betrayal. A mixed group of humans and Maer set off on an historic quest to find the Archive and protect it from those who would use it to destroy everything they hold dear. As the cold of winter bears down upon them, they trek through forbidding mountains beset by dangers they could have never imagined. They follow a set of ancient clues deep into the Silver Hills, forging surprising alliances and making new enemies.
The humans and Maer are linked by more than their quest to find the Archive and stop an insidious war. A mystical surrogacy may bridge the gap between two peoples, and many hearts entwine as their adventure hurtles toward its bloody conclusion.
The Archive continues a short while after the events in Hollow Road and takes up the mantle of breaking out of the constraints of the tropes and expectations for a traditional quest story. It also takes the world that we have been introduced to in book one, and expands it considerably, although it never loses sight of the characters which remain the heart of this series.
Whereas before we were unravelling the truth of the Maer, now we get to experience them living alongside humans and the tensions and conflicts that arise from societies living under the umbrella of a tentative peace and trying to learn how to work together. Here again, we see Fitzgerald’s grasp on humanity and culture, and everything that involves, and The Archive really delves into that, and it is difficult not to see aspects of the real world mirrored within this story. There are lessons to be learned here, and they are woven through the characters and stories and done in such a way that while they are unmissable, they are not rammed down your throat but rather an integral, organic part of this world. You can feel the suspicions and wariness on both sides of this peace, and the characters and different cultures are so well-written that it is impossible not to see and understand both sides, and it adds another layer to the emotion and impact of this series. And you find yourself unable to stop reading as events unfold because there is that delicate line between expectation based on what we think we know about how these relationships will unfold, dread and hope, and a dozen feelings in between.
Again, there is a journey at the centre of this story, and this time it is the search for The Archive – a long lost library containing the history, culture and magic of the Maer. It is known to exist, but no living Maer knows its location, and I liked this variation on the search for answers in Hollow Road, where the Maer were more legend than anything in the beginning. The search added another layer of suspense to the story – would it be found? Just what would be inside it? Would it make or break the relationship between the Maer and the humans? And I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, and I felt that it raised a lot of questions about the value of knowledge and truth, and the dangers it can pose in certain circumstances.
The Archive really takes everything from Hollow Road and expands on it. We get to learn so much more about the Maer, and their various tribes, and I loved how Fitzgerald built up the differing cultures and traditions between them, but also the similarities. And within the differences and tensions and conflicts, this is also a story about learning tolerance and understanding, and not just between the human and Maer, but within each of them and within the individuals themselves.
We return to the fantastic characters from book one – and oh god I was not prepared for one bit, which hit harder than I expected and is a testament to how much we are pulled into the lives of these characters, caring for what becomes of them. However, we also get new points of view particularly from the Maer, and the bonds and relationships that had started to grow in Hollow Road, continue to do so, in some cases blossoming almost beyond recognition, and yet it all feels so natural. Fitzgerald understands his characters on every level, and it is truly a delight to see where he takes them, which when combined with diversity and representation that is just part of this story, makes for compelling and emotive reading.
The Archive is everything you could want for a sequel to the Hollow Road and more and has firmly cemented Dan Fitzgerald as an author to watch. The Maer Cycle continues to impress and scratch that journey/D&D-esque itch while giving so much more. A must-read for anyone who wants an emotive, character-driven fantasy.
About the Author:
Dan Fitzgerald is a fantasy author living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When he is not writing, he might be gardening, taking photographs of nature, doing yoga, cooking, or listening to French music. The Maer Cycle is his debut trilogy, with Hollow Road and The Archive on several book bloggers’ best-of lists for 2020, and The Place Below coming March 4 2021. His upcoming duology, The Weirdwater Confluence, will be published in October 2021 and January 2022. All books published by Shadow Spark Publishing.
Find out more about Dan and his books at www.danfitzwrites.com, or look him up on Twitter or Instagram, under the name danfitzwrites.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.