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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Battle Of Medicine Rocks by Rachel Aaron (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Rachel Aaron Website
Order “The Battle Of Medicine Rocks” over HERE
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's Second Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)
AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rachel Aaron lives in Colorado with her family. She has graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in English Literature. She has been an avid reader since her childhood and now has an ever-growing collection to show for it. She loves gaming, Manga comics & reality TV police shows. She also posts regularly on her blog about publishing, books and several other intriguing things.
OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: When Mary Good Crow came out of the crystal into the arms of her sister, the last thing she wanted was another fight. But war is coming to the Great Plains. With crystal on their side, the Lakota are poised to annihilate the town of Medicine Rocks, forcing Mary to choose between the friends she’s found and the family she’s always longed for.

When Rel Reiner accepted her father’s dark bargain to save Josie and the others, the last thing she expected was to survive. But there’s more to the Reiner’s magic than ghosts and bones. Magic Rel will have to embrace if she ever wants to walk in her own skin again.

When Josie Price left the crystal mines one step ahead of death, the last thing she intended to do was quit. But the wolves in town are circling, and with the crystal going crazy and the cavalry riding to war, just finding a way to protect her people might cost her everything she came to Montana to build.

Three women divided by a war none of them wants. But Josie, Mary, and Rel have always been strongest together, and with the world’s magical future on the line, “together” might be the only way anyone survives.

FORMAT/INFO: The Battle of Medicine Rocks is 466 pages long divided over twenty four character titled chapters and an epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Mary Good Crow, Reliance Reiner, Josephine Price & Lieutenant Jean-Jacques Lucas. This is the second volume of the Crystal Calamity series.
February 1, 2023 marks the e-book & paperback publication of The Battle of Medicine Rocks and it is self-published by the author. Cover Art is by Luisa Preißler.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The second volume in the Crystal Calamity series was one of my most anticipated titles of 2023. At the end of TLSOMGC, things have come to a standstill for each and every POV character. Knowing Rachel Aaron’s penchant for complex plots, I was super-duper pumped to see where the story would be taking them next. I’ll do my best to avoid any major spoilers but there might be some little spoilers ahead.
The story begins with Mary Good Crow and we see that she has gained part of her actual family and her happiness knows no bounds. Josie Price is no quitter and the folks of Medicine Rocks just do not know that yet. The Price Mining company is down to its last legs but Josie and Mihir are determined to reverse this decline at all costs. Reliance Reiner is learning that her hatred for her father can reach hitherto new levels. She will have to dig deep and truly learn the meaning of forgiveness. Lastly, there’s Lieutenant Lucas who will showcase his true background and maybe even his true feelings. There’s a lot more revealed about the side character cast such as Vochitsa, Apache Jake, Dr. Pendleton, etc. The plot truly just explodes from every angle and draws you in spectacularly.
The main focus of this second volume is about the concept of family (blood, found and through martial bonds). Almost every character get a new revelation in terms of familial secrets, they then are further sucked into them, and most of the story is spent figuring out how to resolve the complications. The main plot of the story deals with a possible invasion by the Sioux tribes. Previously they have routed Custer and now are on the move. The people of Medicine Rocks are scared that the Sioux are coming to kill them all. It’s not entirely impossible and the entire town is on edge. The story then amps up as the crystal seems to be going through some changes as well. Overall this is a story that has changes in every aspect of the plot and thereby affecting everyone.
Once again, Rachel Aaron unsurpringly gives us a rich storyline and (again) her characters are such standout ones. Mary Good Crow is a fantastic protagonist, filled with kindness, empathy, the drive to do good and a never-ending reserve of energy. Similarly you have Josephine Price who’s brilliant as she is gifted at business. Filled with a drive to excel, it was fun to watch her and Mihir plot the resurgence of the Price Mining company. Lucas also gets a lot more to do this time around and we the readers are given crucial insights into his past and who he is as a person. Lastly Reliance Reiner goes through the most amount of change. She has been suffering from self-loathing and perhaps rightly so but in this volume, she truly has to confront who she is and why she is in the predicament that she finds herself in.
Lastly, this book spotlights the secondary character cast on every side. From Mary’s new found sister and Bear Woman, to Volchitsa and her underlings to Reiner and his new, ardent accomplice. Every character is three-dimensional and they are all playing for their own gains. This truly is a complex story even if the author does her best to present it in a straightforward manner. I loved the insight provided into Apache Jake and Mary’s biological family, they are very  complicated people and I can’t wait to figure out their motivations for doing the things they have done in the past as well as their current preferences.
This book also goes big on the worldbuilding and mythology of the story. We get a huge insight into what the crystal actually is and why it arose from the earth. We find out about the song that only Mary and some others can hear. The “why and how” of it gets a huge spotlight and I loved this aspect. Rachel Aaron is really planning an earth-shattering epic story over here and it shows here. Lastly there’s some tremendous personal action sequences to be found. While each of the characters get to shine, Mary and Lucas do so more than the others do. Reliance finds herself in a different kind of magical action and I’m excited to see what happens in the next volume as she takes on more responsibility.
The cover if anything is a step up from its predecessor and that one was already a doozy. Luisa Preissler is a genius and I can’t thank Rachel Aaron enough for getting her to do the covers. Also speaking of the cover, there’s a minor hint about a minor character who features heavily within the story.
The one sorta issue that I experienced with this book is that it suffers a bit from the Middle book syndrome (even though it is only the second volume). While the main plot has a resolution (of sorts) and each character has an arc. There is no big-ticket battle that occurs and so I felt that this book sets up a lot for the next volume(s). The epilogue is an excellent example of such and it offers a tantalizing glimpse into a conflict that’s upcoming. It also hints at which character will be the major focus for the next book. Other than that I didn’t find anything else that bothered me much.

CONCLUSION: The Battle Of Medicine Rocks is a solid sequel and one that stood up to my high anticipation. Rachel Aaron truly knows how to concoct a complex plot while writing such engaging characters and not letting either be a hindrance to the readers’ enjoyment. The Crystal Calamity saga is shaping out to be an epic historical fantasy unlike any other. If you have not read book 1 yet, then jump on it and you won’t be disappointed.



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