The Runespell Trilogy

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The Runes of War by Jane Welch

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Written as the first in a series of three novels comprising The Runespell Trilogy, this initial effort by Welch has the makings of an epic fantasy adventure. For centuries, the fortress Torre Alta has guarded the pass separating the vast northern wilderness from the civilized southern baronies. For generations, reputation alone has been sufficient to maintain the peace. But, times change and the residents of Torre Alta find themselves in the unenviable position of having to back up their reputation with action. Barbaric hordes from the north, the Vaalakans, are descending upon the rich and cultivated lands of Belbidia and focusing all their might upon breaking through Torre Alta’s defenses.

As the novel opens, Baron Branwolf is preparing the fortress for the expected siege. Suspecting Vaalakan intruders in the labyrinths below the castle, Branwolf sends his younger half-brother, Hal, along with the search party but forbids his son, Caspar, to accompany them. Rashly, Spar defies his father and follows the group into the tunnels. When disaster separates the two boys from the group, they are forced to find their own way out. Instead, they find the Vaalakan spies and are taken captive, thus beginning a series of adventures with far-reaching consequences. Welch deftly uses many of the tools of traditional epics. Hal and Spar are both companions and rivals. Along the way they encounter friends and foes. What begins as a simple need to escape the enemy eventually becomes a long and intricate quest for the key to saving not just themselves, but Torre Alta and all of Belbidia from complete ruin. Treachery and betrayal, conflicting religious beliefs, inhuman evil and mysterious magic all play a role in this tale.

Welch is a vivid and descriptive author.  Her characters are well drawn and finely detailed.  They are also human, showing the faults and frailties we all possess.  Welch even manages to make the enemy seem understandable at times.  This is Welch’s first published novel and it is quite good.  It has some weak spots, but they did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel.  However, it is important to remember that this is just the first installment in the trilogy.  If you’re looking for closure, you won’t find it with this book.  While some loose ends are wrapped up, most matters aren’t truly resolved at the end; rather they just seem to pause for the next set of events. That’s okay with me, I’m looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

Note: This book is published in the UK.  Although lists it, they might take longer than normal to ship it.  If you want to receive it on a more timely basis, you should order it from who normally ship it in 24 hours.

Reviewed by Diane

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The Lost Runes by Jane Welch

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The second installment of the Runespell Trilogy picks up right where the first book left off. The tired company, including Spar, Brid and Hal, have just returned to Torre Alta bearing the Runes of War, which will protect the fortress for the next nine months. However, with hundreds of thousands of bloodthirsty Vaalakans ready to besiege the fortress, the Runes of War alone are not enough. They need to reunite the Trinity of the Old Faith — the Crone, the Mother and the Maiden. But Morrigwen, the Crone, is near death and an unknown enemy horribly, hopelessly traps Keridwen, the Mother. It is up to the Maiden, Brid, accompanied by Spar and Hal, to search for the mysterious Keepers who can lead them to the Druid’s Egg. Their quest takes them further south into the treacherous lands of the New Faith, where recognition may lead to a fiery death. Along the way, the travelers suffer many trials and tribulations, encountering Inquisitors, Vaalakans, and mercenaries, to name just a few. They also receive help from some unexpected quarters.

Welch pays less attention to the events taking place at Torre Alta, but some of them are key to the plot. Treachery is afoot, but the besieged people are slow to realize it. Welch gives us some tantalizing glimpses, but little seems to come of it. Frankly, I found this a bit frustrating, but I suspect that all of the pieces will be coming together in the final volume of this series.

As with her previous novel, The Runes of War, Welch’s descriptions are interesting and complete. Her character development continues to improve. It quickly becomes apparent that some of the main characters are dealing with a lot of inner turmoil. Friendship, rivalry and love will all have a part to play in the final outcome. Welch also has a lot to say about the female-based Old Religion and the male-oriented New Religion, including that the influence each one has on the relationships between men and women. One thing that I did find rather implausible was the way the group always manages to come through their troubles with money and supplies intact. Despite all their problems their purses never seem to be lost, their stomachs are rarely empty, and their clothes usually survive too! The Lost Runes ends on a positive note, but there is still much that needs to be done if Torre Alta, the Trinity, and the world are to be saved. Stay tuned for the next installment!

Reviewed by Diane

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The Runes of Sorcery by Jane Welch

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The story of Spar, Hal and Brid continues in this third and final novel of the trilogy. At the conclusion of The Lost Runes the group had located the Keeper’s cauldron and found the lost runes, necessary for locating the Druid’s Egg. Unfortunately, while doing this they accidentally set loose the runes of sorcery, inadvertently freeing creatures of ominous magic. Joined by the Caldean mercenary, Ceowulf, and the maiden, Cybillia, and pursued by foes, both real and magical, the race is on for the Druid’s Egg.

Meanwhile at Torre Alta, the heartstone has been stolen and the runes of war have been defaced. Their protection against the evil forces of the Valaakans is quickly waning, but the valiant defenders continue to hold the fortress. Spar and company have no way of knowing this, but they can feel the urgency to find the Egg. Not only will it provide the protection Torre Alta needs, it will help to free the Mother, Keridwen, and contain the magical creatures striving to come into being. If the Egg falls into the wrong hands, all manner of evil will become loosed in the world.

By following the clues provided by the lost runes, the group traverses much of the known world. There are many obstacles in their paths and challenges to be overcome. The knowledge that time is running out provides the group with the incentive to continue their quest.

As the story progresses, many things that were previously hinted at become clearer. Welch provides a richly detailed narrative and continues to expand on the personalities and motivations of her characters. She wraps up all of the various threads she has woven into a satisfactory, if somewhat predictable, conclusion. I must admit that I saw several of the plot twists coming earlier in this series, but Welch still managed to include an unexpected element or two. All in all, I enjoyed this trilogy and am looking forward to the further exploits of this group which are described in Welch’s next trilogy, The Book of Önd.

Reviewed by Diane

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