Book Review: Plague Arcanist (Frith Chronicles Book 4) by Shami Stovall.
(Frith Chronicles Book 4)
By Shami Stovall
Deserts. Rogues. A secret hidden in an underground maze.
Every moment counts as Volke Savan races south to the city of New Norra. His goal: find Theasin Venrover, the famous artificer who may have a cure for the arcane plague. Separated from most of the Frith Guild—and even his sister—Volke must rely on the crew of the airship, the Sun Chaser, to help him find Theasin in time.
To complicate matters, the desert city of New Norra is steeped in mystery, and the massive maze under the streets could potentially solve all of Volke’s problems. With hunters after him, and dread pirates in the port, Volke finds himself forced to choose between equally terrible options…
Continue the Frith Chronicles with the fourth book, Plague Arcanist!
"Real life isn't like a heroic story written for children."
Volke Savan had once dreamed of being a hero, of being a great arcanist. He had been so blinded by his dream that he failed to understand what the word "hero" actually meant. But now, he knew. He now knew that heroes endured great hardship and suffering not so they could bask in their own glory. Heroes endured because they had to, and sometimes they had to do things that they did not want to do. Volke had to leave his beloved Frith Guild, his sister, and his friends. There was no other choice. If he stayed, then he could infect them all and that reality he would not counter.
But there were those who refused to leave Volke's side. Arcanist, Adelgis Venrover, and Fain vowed to stay with him until the bitter end. They would travel with Volke to the city of New Norra, where Adelgis suspected they would find his psychopathic father, Theasin Venrover. If anyone could cure Volke of the arcane plague, then it would be Theasin.
However, so feared was the plague, there were those who hunted the infected and killed them. If the hunters did not catch up with Volke, then the plague would very soon drive him insane. Time was running out. They had to find Theasin before it was too late…
With one eye on the story and the other on the setting, Shami Stovall has penned a novel that is not only highly entertaining but one that is simply unforgettable. Plague Arcanist (Frith Chronicles Book 4) is an exceptional work of scholarship.
The setting of the Frith Chronicles books is so finely detailed that it conveys to the reader a powerful visual presence. This is a world that is wild, almost untameable, chaotic even, and yet there is also something indisputably beautiful about it. Stovall has taken as much care with the detail of the landscape as she does with the portrayal of her protagonists and antagonists. This fantasy world is ripe with possibilities, but there is also an essence of the ancient world, of Greek Mythology, within the pages of this book. Stovall's ingenuity is devoted to making the world that she has created seem as real as possible. The mythical realm is one that is explored in great depth in this series. However, unlike conventional myths, Stovall does not glorify the past, there is no sense of loss, no desperate longing for a time gone by because the heroes that Volke had idolised when he was a child were as ordinary as he is. They just lived an extraordinary life, and that is what sets the Frith Chronicles apart from other mythical stories that are out there, and I think this is why it also stands out as being something very special indeed.
There is a constant feeling of movement throughout the Frith Chronicles, and although the destination is always very clear, the journey itself seemingly has no end. The characters have to get to one place in order to go to another. There is no fixed abode in itself, instead home is where the Frith Guild is, and for Volke, in this book, that is his ultimate destination. He can only go home if he gets better. But the journey he embarks on to regain his health is fraught with setbacks. Time is not on his side, but time is also all he has.
Volke's upbringing, the simple life he was made to live, seems almost antithetical to heroism — he is the adopted son of a gravedigger. But he was always determined to change his stars, to go after his dream. The journey that Volke finds himself on from Book 1 to Book 4 is a very interesting and very personal one. Through Volke, Stovall represents the development of a common person, a nobody, into a hero who has more integrity, more honour, than those who had been born to be great. As with all the books in this fabulous series, there are many times where Volke is given the opportunity to test his resolve. His devastation and despondency about his situation are understandable. And yet, he is also a very moral person, and there are some things that he would not consider doing, even if it meant he would be cured. The ethical dilemmas that he faces in a bid to rid himself of the plague demonstrate his underlying goodness. Volke always wanted to be a hero, and in this book, he most certainly is because of the things he does not do.
The antagonists in this story are as elusive as they have always been. Who is responsible for this plague? Who wants to gain from it? Unfortunately, dissension plagues the arcanists as much as the actual plague does, so such answers are difficult to come by. The arcanists are separated by their guilds, their beliefs, and also by their fear. This unwillingness to come together for the greater good makes for an incredibly compelling plot.
At all times Stovall's narrative is light, casual almost, she is aware of her intended audience, and she knows how to keep a young adult turning those pages. There are moments in the story where the narrative demands a darker, sinister approach, but even then there is nothing unsuitable for the intended age this book is aimed at. For the most part, the narrative is warm, friendly and welcoming.
When I reviewed Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) back in 2019, I said I have not enjoyed a young adult fantasy so much since J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, and I still stand by that statement, but I would like to add that the Frith Chronicles is a series that now deserves to be on the big screen alongside the likes of Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson. It deserves to be read by generation after generation. This is the kind of series that will never grow old and I, for one, will never tire of it.
Plague Arcanist (Frith Chronicles Book 4) by Shami Stovall is a novel that commanded my attention from the very beginning to the very last full stop. This is a story that does not threaten to mesmerise, it really does.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Pick up your copy of
Shami Stovall relies on her BA in History and Juris Doctorate to make her living as an author and history professor in the central valley of California. She writes in a wide range of fiction, from crime thrills to fantasy to science-fiction. Stovall loves reading, playing video games, entertaining others with stories, and writing about herself in the third person.