Review By Don Sloan
Hannah returns as the reluctant heroine of an entire world in this remarkable fantasy tale of classic good versus evil, but set in a reality parallel to our own — in the magical land of Aerisia.
Author Sarah Ashwood recreates the enchanted domain and peoples it once more with all the depthless characters from Book One: the wondrous fairy Aureeyah, Hannah’s young friend Rittean, and, of course, her chief protector and smoldering love interest, Lord Ilgarth.
In this book, Hannah simmers as she speculates about her role as The Artan — legendary savior of the Aerisians, long foretold in lore and song. She doubts the prophecy’s veracity — until she’s handed a legendary blade one day. With it in her hand, she comes close to defeating Ilgard in what was — at first — a harmless trial of her dexterity with the weapon. She “Becomes” the blade, fighting with a manic zeal and level of accomplishment far beyond anyone’s expectations.
What follows is Hannah’s slow acceptance of her destiny: to defeat The Evil that threatens the very existence of Aerisia.
After returning to the city of Laytii, Hannah begins months of training to learn control of her newfound powers. Then, the arrival of a mysterious delegation of hooded folk set off alarm bells for Hannah and a few others. Their fears are quickly realized as The Artan sweeps into battle, fighting alongside Ilgard and other members of the storied Simathe guard.
The world-building here is once again first-class, with highly accomplished writing and impeccable editing that swiftly sweep the reader into the dual universe, caring deeply for the heroes and dreading each encounter with evil. In one particularly moving scene, Ilgard huskily vows his devotion to Hannah:
“Aye, lass,” he promised, voice earnest, low. “Though the Dark One himself appear, I will fight with you through whatever this night may bring.”
Across the Singing Bridge, and accompanied by unlikely giant allies, Hannah pursues her destiny with deceptive vulnerability and rare good grace. The action flows fast toward an ending that is at once satisfying and conclusive, yet leaving room for delicious speculation about what’s coming up in Book Three.
Five stars to Aerisia: Gateway to the Underworld. Stay tuned for the sequel — the final installment in this standout fantasy franchise.
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