The second book in Cherokee author Daniel Heath Justice’s fantasy trilogy The Way of Thorn and Thunder was possibly even better than its predecessor. If you want to know what this series is all about, check out my review of the first book, where I highly recommend it even if you’re not usually a fantasy fan. Give fantasy a try! If you’re interested, have a look at this page on the author’s website. It gives you an overview of the world the books are set in, and some behind the scenes sketches of the characters as Heath Justice developed them over the years. Tarsa and Tobhi started off as Dungeons and Dragons characters! Pretty rad.
Wyrwood picks up just where Kynship leaves off. Tarsa and Tobhi are off on an epic journey to rescue diplomats who have been “guests” of the enemy leader Vald in the land of Men for far too long. Right from the start, Tarsa, in classic warrior mode, is kicking some serious ass and refusing to play nice with Vald while they are staying in his castle. She’s so bad-ass, passionate, and head-strong, always thinking with her heart more than her head: you can’t help but love her. Tobhi is also lovable, with his easy-going ways and sense of humour, but you wouldn’t want to get on his bad side, either. They manage to escape the clutches of Vald—with who I won’t tell you, as I don’t want to spoil the surprise—but not before witnessing a terrible betrayal by one of their own! This is, of course, only the beginning of their journey.
One great thing about Wyrwood compared to Kynship is that you’re familiar with the big cast of characters at this point, and so you’re not having to check the glossary, saying, who is this person again and how do I know them? Also, Heath Justice spends more time on fewer characters this time around; I really enjoyed getting to know some of the characters in more depth, like Tobhi’s love interest, Quill. In fact, Quill gets a whole storyline and adventure of her own in this volume. Despite never having left her home and being a humble doll-maker (she can also speak with the dolls), Quill sets off on a journey to play her own part in the story. She plans to march into the heart of the countries of Men, and convince another human leader to becomes allies of the Kyn and help defeat Vald. No big deal.
Quill didn’t really know what she was getting herself into, going out into the wilderness on her own when it’s crawling with colonialists, but luckily she runs into someone who I think is my favourite character yet, Denarra Syrene. She is a travelling musician and actress, as well as a Wielder—a kind of healer/priestess/witch who fulfills a vital role in traditional Kyn society. She’s also a she-Strangeling—meaning she has human and Kyn background—and I just realized that I read her origin story in Sovereign Erotics, an anthology of two-spirit and/or queer Native writers (which I reviewed here) and that makes me love her even more (also, now I know she’s trans!). She is laugh out loud funny, no-holds-barred campy, and irresistibly lovable. Apparently I think all these characters are lovable, actually? Take, for example, this offside in conversation with Quill:
It’s not at all unlike the time I got into a bit of trouble in this unpleasant little town in the Allied Wilderlands called Swampy Creek. An unfortunate misunderstanding involving a rather handsome and remarkably well-endowed spice merchant, his utterly unsympathetic wife—who was, I might add, both surprisingly agile and utterly impervious to reason—as well as a three-legged mule with an aversion to freshwater pearls…
This book culminates in an epic battle scene at the important site of the tree of the Everland, which is the source of life and power for the tree-born Kyn people and now the setting for a civil war. Of course, I won’t tell you how it ends, but I will say the book stops at quite the cliff-hanger. I’ve already got the third one out of the library and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!