The Hicks/Hayes duo returns to their novelized nightmares in the Cycle of Ages: Sands of Sorrow, a novel which once again challenges the imagination with fantasy, character, worlds, and other-worlds. Sands of Sorrow, much like Finders Keepers, contains the typical Hicks/Hayes slow beginning. We find the surviving trio from the first installment, in a completely new location from where we last saw them. Significant time has clearly passed, as the trio are attempting to find the remaining parts to their newfound vessel, The Seadragon. They are also accompanied by new characters, a roster which quickly grows to more.
From the beginning, the scale of Faltyr is expanded, in which we now encounter vast cities, and mass mountains, a great setting change from the small island region of Finders Keepers. Despite the slow start, our characters quickly find themselves in need of giving their all in an ambush attack, in an attempt to flee the city in which they are among the hunted. The escape is very wel executed, and reminds readers about the sheer power of magic that exists in Faltyr. They quickly escape with a band of prisoned elves, some of which may be holding some secrets, and go into hiding into the post-apocalyptic desert of the Sands of Sorrow. From here, the story takes on a Mad Max: Fury Road chase sequence, in which the rag-tag band of mercenaries must choose fight or flight instinct in accomplishing their goal, while also being chased by their pursuers.
A drawback to the novel is that there is a very broad cast of characters to contend with, as well as remember their purpose in the story. However, this is more than made up for by improved character development for our original trio, Dor, Yax, and Bruexias, as well as some of the new additions. Dor, who was a stick-in-the-mud wizard hell-bent on his own goals in Finders Keepers, is now given more time to develop, as well as emote; he can be serious, sad, humorous, and even romantic throughout the story. He is under much less stress in this installment, and is a much more enjoyable character to read about. Yax is given development, both in his emotions, but also in his abilities and lore. We learn more about the elven world by allowing him to interact with his own peoples, and even a love-interest, whereas in the first installment, he was simply a skilled fighter. Bruexias, who was in the same boat as Yax in Finders Keepers, is given development in his willingness to fight for his friends, and this time his family. A character who was once a brooding no-nonsense fighter, now becomes an emotional character with much involvement to the story.
The fuel to this great character development, is the clever use of having the characters separated through most of the novel. It is here where the characters must work off of themselves and new comers, in order to advance the story. If they were separated only for the purpose of getting lost and finding their way back to the group, it wouldn’t have been very interesting to read about, and readers would find themselves longing to get back to Dor’s portion of the story. Instead, the actions of both groups, affect the other.
Action is at its very greatest in this novel. With twists and turns and ridiculous use of Aether magic, there is no telling what is around the corner as to how our characters fight. Especially from the character of Dor, who comes out of his shell in this novel to get up close and personal to his contenders, rather than sticking strictly to magic. Even then, his magic is some of the most fun sequences in the book.
It is not only the action that develops in this one, but also the lore and myth of Faltyr. Unlike most portions of lore in Finder’s Keepers in which the mystery of Faltyr had little to do with the actual plot, the legends of Faltyr and its gods mesh entirely with the story, which is all tied up in the ending.
Sands of Sorrow manages to surpass the quality of its predecessor, and makes the reader want to continue turning pages until they’ve realized how much of their time has burned away in the fires of the Nine Hells. Give this one a read for an acid trip of action and fantasy.
-David Brashier; Atlanta Georgia; January 2016
You can order the novel from Amazon here.