★★★★★ Andi O’Connor’s The Speaker is the second installment in her Vaelinel Trilogy and picks up where the first book left off. Princess Irewen is on her way to the northern country of Lündvelle in hopes of reading a prophecy in the archives of the light elves. However, she is being pursued by the Drulaack–evil spirits capable of possessing elves. These spirits are being controlled by the Corrupter, an ancient evil wizard set on revenge against the elves. With at least a month remaining in her journey, Irewen fears that she will not reach her destination in time, but she is a speaker, capable of communicating with spirits. She makes contact with her deceased parents and takes refuge in the spirit world, where they can safely carry her along. Her guardian, Silevethiel (a lion with whom she shares a spiritual connection and that can sense her presence) realizes something is wrong when she can no longer sense Irewen. At the same time, Laegeon, Irewen’s partner, decides to follow Irewen and assembles a party to pursue and protect her.
This series is in many ways reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. One such similarity lies in the excellent world building, especially with regards to the different races of beings having distinctive cultures. There is plenty of focus on the different creatures and their powers, appearances, personalities, and even coins, however, the book may have benefited from more focus on physical setting and geography. Also, interesting are the encounters with the somdyrr, or sea giants–creatures that seem to be of O’Connor’s own invention. Like middle books of trilogies often do, this book seemed to drag a bit and is sometimes excessively introspective. However, the thrilling conclusion and feminist touches bode well for the trilogy’s finale.
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