The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue

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One thousand years after a great conflict known as The Mapmaker’s War, a daughter is born to an ambitious historian and a gifted translator. Secret Riven doesn’t speak until her seventh year but can mysteriously communicate with plants and animals. Unsettled by visions and dreams since childhood, she tries to hide her strangeness, especially from her mercurial father and cold mother. Yet gentle, watchful Secret finds acceptance from Prince Nikolas, her best friend, and Old Woman, who lives in the distant woods.
When Secret is twelve, her mother receives an arcane manuscript to translate from an anonymous owner. Zavet suffers from nightmares and withdraws into herself. Secret sickens with a fever and awakens able to speak an ancient language, one her mother knows as well. Suddenly, Zavet dies. The manuscript is missing, but a cipher has been left for Secret to find.
Years later, Secret becomes a translator’s apprentice for Fewmany, an influential magnate, who has taken an interest in her for reasons she cannot discern. Before Secret learns why, Old Woman confronts Secret with the truth of her destiny—a choice she must make that is tied to an ancient past.
The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue
Second book in The Keeper of Tales Trilogy
Sequel to The Mapmaker's War
 3 out of 5 stars

The Chronicle of Secret Riven is a slightly disconnected sequel to The Mapmaker's War, which I have also reviewed and really enjoyed. This sequel takes place in the same world, but thousands of years after the first book. As such, there are many cultural shifts that have taken place and new characters to be introduced. This book and the following book are set up to be more of a duology, with The Mapmaker's War being a prequel set in the distant past and the final two books following the same character's story. While The Mapmaker's War easily stands on it's own, The Chronicle of Secret Riven cannot stand apart from its coming sequel without feeling incomplete. You do not need to read The Mapmaker's War to read The Chronicle of Secret Riven, but I would recommend that you do. It adds a layer to the story that those who haven't read the first book will miss.

A lot of what I loved about The Mapmaker's War was missing in The Chronicle of Secret Riven. Whereas I highly enjoyed the unique writing style - the fact that the first book was written in second person narration - this second installment went for a more conventional style. The fact that the second installment not only follows different characters in a completely changed future-world, and the vast change in writing style, creates a massive disconnect between the two books. While Domingue still showcases her ability to create enthralling characters for a massively character-driven fantasy story, that felt like the only element of the story that remained similar to its predecessor.

Our main character, Secret, was an interesting one to follow. In this installment, we see her grow from a mute child, discriminated against for her disability and for her race (she is a person of color), to a young woman applying to University. This gives the book a more Young Adult feel. Even though I loved Secret, I felt we saw too much of her. This book is twice as long as its predecessor, and unnecessarily so. We recount every year of her life in too much detail, which developed more of her characterization than any the plot. While Domingue's books are driven by the characters more-so than the story, we could have known just as much about Secret in less words rather than recounting every situation in which she is bullied by other kids or her mother gets angry at her (which happens a lot).

The development of the world that we originally see in The Mapmaker's War was intriguing. There are interlude chapters, short and written in a style more reminiscent on the first book, that lay out the setting clearly for the reader. While I found the setting to be interesting, and the additions of new technologies to add a different element unseen in the first novel, these interlude chapters felt unneeded. I ended up skimming them for the most part, because I felt the visuals and information provided were already sufficiently supplied in the normal chapters. The interlude chapters were more confusing than helpful, since I was never quite sure why they were needed.

The Chronicle of Secret Riven, in the end, could have used significant trimming and perhaps stopped a little further into Secret's tale. The end of the book didn't feel like an end at all, and nothing was really accomplished aside from Secret growing up and coming into her powers. Mysteries that were alluded to remain unsolved. The story remains unfinished, despite the fact that it clocks in at 400 pages and has more than enough space to wrap up more plot-lines than it attempted to.

I am still looking forward to the next book, since the mysteries hinted at in this installment were quite interesting and I would love to see where this goes... I just wish this book had provided more.

I was provided a review copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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