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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

A Contract in Sol Forne by Élan Marché and Christopher Warman (Reviewed by Lena)


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OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Élan Marché and Christopher Warman met in high school in Oklahoma in 2009. After dating for a decade, they got married in 2020. They currently live in Los Angeles where they work and spend their time watching TV, reading, writing, cooking delicious meals, and generally enjoying each other's company.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A contained fantasy adventure featuring djinns, dangerous wishes, political factions, and militias.

A djinn.
A boy.
A terrible contract.

"I wouldn't have asked for that if I knew I could ask for anything."

Vaelin is an ancient djinn on a quest to seek the artifact to which she is enslaved. Her centuries-long journey lands her in the southern port city-state of Sol Forne, where she is certain the artifact is held.

There, she meets Dorovan, a disaffected youth from a dissolved noble house. Though their initial connection is cursory, their bond becomes one that may endanger the entire Cycle of Nature.

FORMAT/INFO: A Contract in Sol Forne is the second book in The Eight Chant series. It contains 386 pages and a prologue, 28 chapters and an epilogue, and it's written in third person from Vaelin, Dorovan, and Renna's perspectives. It was published by the authors on 1st February, 2023 in ebook and paperback formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: As a second book in a series, there will be some spoilers for book one.

At the beginning of the book we witness Vaelin's birth. She's a djinn, who after being trapped and a slave for far too long, is given a body, after an elven lady wished for it to be. We don't know exactly why but she's still not free despite now having a body. What we know is that after centuries of searching for an object that could at last give her the freedom she sought, she's so close to get it. This object is in Sol Forne. 

"Even after all these centuries, it was still hard at times to think of herself as free. She wasn't truly free-not yet."
We see how the characters and the world has been affected and how they are adapting to the consequences of everything that happened in Seasons of Albadone. 

Vaelin is part of the Cycle of Nature and as such there would be disastrous consequences of her dying. To prevent that she needs to Contract with someone, granting a wish to that person. How often she needs to Contract is a different matter, not really clear but every time the Hunger attacks she needs to, she would succumb to the Compulsion and die otherwise. 

On the other hand we find Dorovan, who the male heir of a fallen Noble House. He wants to recover his family's name and title, no matter the cost. His sister is very much the opposite, as she is studying to become a colourist and make a name for herself.

When Dorovan and Vaelin paths crossed, not once but twice, we discovered many secrets, found out about the Compulsion, and the Cycle of Nature.

We also got to see Renna, who is a character from book one, who suffered the Tragedy in Albadone in the flesh. And when we catch up with her we found her with the Blue Scarabs, a group that has a little bit of a reputation and one that tries to recruit Dorovan to their cause many times throughout the book. And I'm not going to tell you any more as it could be considered a spoiler but the group and Renna in particular is key to many many things.

Throughout the book important themes such as duty, heroism, slavery, selfishness, even heavy ones like rape and discrimination being discussed and represented with much care, which I really appreciated and think they were really well done. 

I had a really hard time connecting with Dorovan. He's a very frustrating character. His moral compass is very much broken. And even though he does stumbles and falls, he just doesn't learn. And for most of the book, he's screwing up over and over. 

Vaelin on the other hand is more relatable and humane, being a djinn in an elven body than Dorovan that's human. Her strength, resilience and perseverance are wonderful to see. Even in the face of adversity she continues to fights and doesn't give up. And she's so humble, always doing the right thing, even though she could take power and abuse it and the people with it, but she doesn't. 

I love that we got to see more about the magic system. Which is based on runes, wishes and seals (among others) the energy of the Cycle. We also saw Renna again and with her, the magic system is more clear but still there are so many secrets about how everything works. We got a glimpse of how was it that the elven people disappeared. 

The world is so interesting. Still there's so much to see. The consequences of the Tragedy in Albadone run deep and the whole land is affected in ways that still people are not aware of. I'm very curious about Vizen and the Master and how his magic works. 

The writing in this one is absolutely captivating. The authors makes you want to know what'll happen to the characters, the overarching plot is very interesting and very compelling even though we've not seen much of it, and just like the first one, this is very fast paced, and pretty much action packed. 

"Not a lover's scorn, nor an enemy's victory,
Shall compare to the tears shed from the loss of a friend."
CONCLUSION: Overall, A Contract in Sol Forne is a very compelling follow up to the Seasons of Albadone. It doesn't disappoint in the slightest. This is a sequel that doesn't feel like a filler but immensely important to the series and one that will leave you craving for the next one.



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