In my attempts to read an indie book a month, I was able to read and finish Valley of the Shadow by Christina Ochs. Now that I’ve got this under my belt, I’m prepared to enjoy her next novel, Hammer of the Gods. It’s coming out in June, so I don’t have to wait for much longer! Here’s what I have to say about this amazing novel.
My Rating: 5 stars
This novel takes off right after Rise of the Storm. What was meant to be a victory for Kendryk turns out to be one big flop. While Kendryk languishes in defeat, his wife, Gwynneth, and other key players in the war try to pick up what he began to keep Empress Teodora from reeking her revenge on those she deems traitorous.
While the big key players are duking it out and engaging in battle, the local people in each of these nations fight a battle of their own: whether to hang onto traditional ways of interpreting religion or embracing the newer, radical thought of reading the scrolls for themselves.
As the war constantly punishes both sides, nations will change sides in surprising ways and it’s up to you to read to the end to see who will benefit and who will burn because of their decisions.
What I Enjoyed:
I noticed Och’s organization style in Rise of the Storm, and she continues this into this novel. I enjoy seeing what everyone is thinking when the chapter focuses on their POV, but you also get a strong feeling about how other characters view them, too. Getting inside Teodora’s mind is intriguing and frightening all the same.
Speaking of Teodora, I would say that she makes the story interesting and fast-paced. At this point of the story, it’s her versus the rebels, so her rage and anger drives the plot. In fact, the characters on her side are constantly tasked with keeping key prisoners alive as well as whole towns and villages from getting destroyed. It’s not a job for the faint of heart. Even though I despise Teodora, it’s those feelings that made me realize that Ochs has devised quite the villain.
Another thing I enjoyed overall was Och’s ability to keep readers 100% up to speed with politics and war strategy. Never have I read a book where the strategy and results of said strategy were clearly explained—the explanation isn’t dumbed down in any way, so readers can easily follow each side’s mindset to the point where they feel like they’re a part of the intrigue as well.
I usually have a section that outlines things I didn’t enjoy, but to be honest, I couldn’t find anything that particularly bugged me. A few typos, but not distracting enough to cause a commotion. I would say that her organization of the overall story and her chapters makes it so you can easily trace and enjoy each character arc and the ending is satisfying. Everyone is accounted for, so all loose ends are tied, but with enough plot to graciously hand the baton to the next book, Hammer of the Gods.
The Final Say
Overall, Christina Ochs does it again by continuing the story of war, religion, and free will. Usually, there’s always a slight preference to an author’s first book over the rest, but she evenly spreads out her writing style and skills into this book without skipping a beat. Her storytelling style is controlled and engaging. If you loved Rise of the Storm, this sequel will not disappoint.
This novel is ultimately appropriate for young adults and older; intercourse and rape is mentioned but not explained in detail, in case that’s not your thing.
I would highly recommend picking up Valley of the Shadow, and while you’re busy doing that, excuse me while I gobble up Hammer of the Gods.
To learn more about Christina Ochs and her works, check her out on social media:
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