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I was fortunate to read The Hand of Fire by Roland O’Leary as a member of team Before We Go Blog during SPFBO8.
The Hand of Fire is an ambitious book, with a complex storyline and a vast world. The very beginning of the book started with a lone rider escaping a doomed battle. Based on that, I expected a fast-moving story. Such is not the case. The Hand of Fire is a book that takes its time, getting each detail correct and crafting a well-executed story. While it does pick up toward the end, I struggled to concentrate at the beginning. I think that stemmed in part from the memories that were described. They were there to explain Lady Charymylle’s relationship with her husband, and to highlight her involvement with how things were run. However, they did interrupt the pacing a bit. The last half of the book definitely moved faster, setting up the rest of the series wonderfully.
Danalar’s father, lord of the Halyas, is either dead or taken captive, a casualty of battle. His storyline is a bit of a coming-of-age tale, as he learns to cope with this loss and become a leader. He was very a very believable character and managed to never bore or annoy me. I really enjoyed watching his character grow. My very favorite character, though, was Lady Charymylle. While dealing with her own emotions regarding the disappearance of her husband, she was also the competent and clever leader the people needed. She was never on the sidelines and was a strong character, something I very much appreciated.
The Hand of Fire reminded me a bit of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series by Tad Williams. Willliams’ first book, The Dragonbone Chair, also has a slower pace. In fact, I would argue that the entire book is just setup for the rest of the series. Because the series is so amazing, The Dragonbone Chair is great. But it has to be taken with the rest of the series. On its own, it doesn’t feel like a full story. The Hand of Fire seemed like that to me. If the rest of the series is as well written as the first book is (and I have no reason to think it won’t be), the payoff will be huge, and the series will be a must-read for fans of sweeping fantasy.
I truly hope that I made sense with my wandering explanation there. Roland O’Leary is crafting something with massive potential that I think is going to pay off in a big way. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.