Shiloh Rising by Fiona Tarr

Shiloh Rising by Fiona Tarr

This is the third installment in The Priestess Chronicles, and thanks to the author’s visit yesterday, I now understand the patterns I was seeing much better. The book reads much like an episodic television show in how the primary cast faces a new challenge each time. While they still fight evil in the form of a relic, this story has only the barest connection with the previous one beyond the main characters. And even there, the group has expanded to include Ophelia from Relic Seeker.

Ariela’s angel guide drops the four of them in Carthage, or right outside of it in Ariela and Ophelia’s case. Culaan and Genevieve appear at the docks, recognized, much to their dismay, by the strong fish scent. They quickly find their footing with a few hiccups. Ariela, however, isn’t given the chance. A man claiming to be from her mother’s order takes charge of her and Ophelia almost from the moment they appear. He takes her right to the remnants of the Order of Shiloh, something that little resembles what her mother had created.

The book starts a little slow as each group tries to figure out why they arrived in these places and what they have come here to do. This didn’t bother me, though. Between Culaan’s grumping about his separation from Ariela and using the provided clues to remember the previous book, I had much to entertain me.

As an example of how the books are different, Culaan and Genevieve’s status, despite a fat purse, is much lower than the avatars of gods they were in Relic Seeker. They must seek employment as mercenaries and without revealing their true strengths. Genevieve is having none of the lust sent in her direction, however, demanding they treat her as the warrior she is. At least not unless she feels the same. Her skills translate well to this time, and soon the siblings find themselves in the King’s personal guard.

Ariela and Ophelia are swept along into her mother’s order. But though the interest in politics offends Ariela, they soon discover that’s not why the angel brought them here. Ophelia fulfills her role when she senses an evil relic. They’re in Carthage during the rule of the Vandals. It’s embroiled in a religious conflict that is as much political as driven by the relic they’re here to claim. Tarr blends what we know of history with plausible fantasy to give us a glimpse of the past in the midst of a dangerous adventure.

While their powers are interesting, and growing, it’s the strength of the characters that draws me into this series. I recall them with the barest of reminders, and they continue to develop. This series started as a young adult (YA) skewing to younger readers beyond quick side mentions. But as Culaan and Ariela’s love matures, I suspect it will become better suited for the older YA crowd. The books appear once a year, though, so the series matures with its readers. It’s worth a mention for binge readers, but I felt no lack of enjoyment in the first book.

I mention the above in part because it is an important theme in the book, or at least Culaan thinks so. They are separated for most of the book, while Ariela’s role involves being considered a potential bride for someone else. This opens the story to many humorous moments, especially in how Genevieve treats her brother’s longings.

Both pairs find assistance in their labors, expanding the cast beyond those out of time and giving us a deeper look into the time period. This is part of why I’m enjoying the series, and why historical retellings appeal to me. Make no mistake. This is fantasy with strong liberties taken to support the story. At the same time, the story feels grounded and some of the events may come from our historical knowledge. They feel so in any case, and I do not know the history of Carthage well enough to dismiss the sensation.

What does The Priestess Chronicles offer its readers? Magic, mayhem, and history all wrapped in one. It’s best to start at the beginning, but if you want to try the series out, each episode is self-contained with a clear, and complete, story arc beyond character development. I have enjoyed my time with this crew so far and plan to stick around.

P.S. I received this Advanced Readers’ Copy from the author in return for an honest review.

P.P.S. The first book, Call of the Druids, is on sale in eBook for November to get you started.

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