Author: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Published: September 13, 2005
Number of Pages: 192
Genre(s): Fantasy, YA
Date Read: February 22, 2013
When we last saw the Avians and Serpiente their leaders Zane Cobriana and Danica Shardae were pregnant and setting out with their Falcon friends, Rei and Kel, to create a Wyvern's Court in hopes of bringing their people together to not only achieve peace but to keep out the hateful influence of the Falcon Empire.
Now we fast forward several years and meet Nicias the pure blooded Falcon son of Rei and Kel, and the Grandson of the Heir to the Falcon Empire, Araceli. He's part of the Royal Guard of Oliza Shardae Cobriana, the heir to the Wyvern's Court. He is sworn to protect her with his life, a duty he takes very seriously, but his duty puts his life at stake when suddenly and without warning he begins to have nightmares of Ahnmik, nightmares which lead to a black out and a fall when flying with Oliza. His parents have no choice after that but to send him back to Ahnmik and to Araceli, because if they don't the Falcon magic that has awakened within him will drive him to total insanity.
Nicias is both drawn to and appalled by Ahnmik, simultaneously wanting to be there, succumbing to the seduction of Lily and the pull of the magic, and wanting to flee and get as far away from the place his parents hate the most. But he stays, because Araceli is the only hope he has, or so he is led to believe, until he finds himself drawn to the supposedly dangerous criminal Darien and her mysterious daughter Hai. Suddenly he finds himself smack in the middle of the royal power struggle his parents sought to keep him out of a struggle that will force Nicias to choose between duty and destiny. Is he strong enough to do what is necessary?
As the middle book of the series it has the task of moving the plot forward, but honouring what came before it. I'm not entirely sure it's successful in accomplishing that task. By skipping forward about 15-20 years Atwater-Rhodes has glossed over extremely important details about the building and growth of the Wyvern's court. It went from not existing at the end of Snakecharm to being an almost completely functional kingdom where the only real threat is what will happen when Oliza takes the throne, and for some reason her parents aren't as concerned about this as one would expect. In Hawksong and Snakecharm the readers were treated to Danica and Zane as highly conscientious people who thought about every detail of their plans and how those plans would affect their people. But either parenthood changed them or I completely misunderstood them in this book, because Zane at least seemed extremely different than the previous two instalments. I think this is compounded by the fact that we have Nicias as a narrator, he wasn't around during the events of the previous two books so maybe it's just that his perspective is skewing the reader's knowledge. That makes sense because he's a very introspective narrator who doesn't really seem to have a complete and full understanding of Wyvern's Court, which could be chalked up to the fact that he's a Falcon and the one thing the Avians and the Serpeiente can actually agree on is that they really really have a hard time trusting Falcons who look like Falcons. So not only are we not treated to how exactly the court was formed but we have little to no information about what exactly the Falcons were doing to work against them for the last 20 years.
At the end of Snakecharm the characters were well aware that the Royal Family of Ahnmik wasn't just going to let them get on with it. But from the sounds of the narrative that seems to be exactly what happened? Nicias coming into his magic seems to be the catalyst that gets the Falcons interested in acting again. But given what Nicias discovers about the Falcons' motives while he is on Ahnmik I find it REALLY hard to believe that the Falcons just sat back for all those years without interfering and just let Danica and Zane work towards re-uniting the Avians and the Serpiente after all the work they put into ensuring they would never re-unite. It doesn't make any sense; perhaps it's fleshed out more in Wolfcry? I haven't gotten around to reading that yet maybe I should make it my next book.
Moving away from plot and narration, one of the major themes of the series has been the personal growth of the narrators, watching them wrestle with their heritage and find a way to synthesize their histories with their day to day realities. Nicias has the hardest time doing this out of all 3 narrators so far. He's the son of two exiled Falcons living in a place where no one trusts someone who has a Falcon form. He has to learn how to control magic he didn't ask for and wasn't warned about from a woman who his entire family and extended family hates in a place he has never wanted to go. And while he's there he makes discoveries that not only change everything he knows about himself but everything he and everyone else knows about the world in which they live. Heavy stuff for a teenager. Nicias handles all of this surprisingly well. There are very few outbursts on his part. He's very level headed and mature.
I have to say that even though the book feels out of place, and I think the series would have benefitted from a book in between Snakecharm and Falcondance, something from Rei or Kel's perspective, that overall I enjoyed this instalment in the series. Nicias is by far the best of the three narrators so far. He also has the most interesting and involved story of the three which makes for an engaging read. Even though I feel it's weak as the third instalment and that it has it's flaws (what book doesn't?), it's still a good and enjoyable read.