The Coming Stormcame as a gust of fresh air to me. I support independent e-books, but the last two I read were not to my taste for various reasons. I haven’t read epic fantasy in a long time, but picked this one up because of Valerie’s appealing and helpful personality on the Indie Authors Group on Facebook. I was immediately struck by the carefully crafted writing of a skilled author and a well-edited work. The descriptions are lovingly detailed and vividly portrayed. Races that often seem hackneyed through overuse, such as Elves, are given fresh life by Ms. Douglas, preventing them from being Tolkien clones. The characters are likeable but dimensional, with their flaws and foibles.
Description: Elon of Aerilann, Elven advisor to the High King of Men, helped to negotiate the treaty between Elves, Dwarves and men. That treaty has held for nearly twenty years but now his foresight warns him that the fragile truce between the races is threatened from without by an unknown enemy and from within by old hatreds and prejudice. With the aid of his true-friend Colath, the wizard Jareth and the elven archer Jalila, he goes in search of the source of the threat.
Ailith, the Heir to Riverford – fights her own silent battle. Her father has changed, something’s wrong, but she can’t say what, only that her beloved father is suddenly prone to inexplicable rages. Her quest to discover what changed him puts her life and soul in danger and leaves her only one place to turn. Elon. Ailith, though, has a secret that threatens everything for which they’re fighting. To preserve the alliance, though, Elon will be forced to choose between his honor, his duty, and much more.
The mother bear had put up a terrible fight to save her cubs, as such will do when their young were threatened. All around the clearing the dirt was torn up, the underbrush crushed and the trees marked with blood and fur. It had been a valiant but futile effort on the part of the bear. Little remained of her and her offspring except for the blood, the shattered bones and a few traces of offal. They stank but not nearly as much as the reek of something else, something that chilled Elon’s blood.
“Kobold,” he said, quietly into the unnatural silence of the wood, mute testimony to the fact that the predators that had done this still remained somewhere near.
They hadn’t reckoned on kobolds. Although there had been reports of something killing down here, they’d thought it was perhaps a young orc or a boggart. So far from the borderlands, it would’ve been more likely by far to be a rogue bear.
It wasn’t the bear that had gone rogue.
Every sense was alert, his eyes as much on the destruction here as on the least twitch of a branch against the breeze.
Around him, the eyes of the other Hunters scanned everywhere, down in the shadows, up into the branches and all around. Bows were strung and arrows were notched against what they couldn’t see.
“Aye,” Colath said, kneeling in the dirt next to a particularly noxious heap of offal and scat. Looking up, he gave Elon a significant look. “More than one.”
Elon looked closer, not that he had any doubts as to true-friend’s assessment. The signs were unmistakable. The coldness in his belly spread. Colath, his true-friend, paxman and most trusted companion, was vulnerable down there. Especially to kobolds, who ran low to the ground.
“Kobolds don’t travel in packs. Something’s wrong here. Get back in the saddle, Colath, and quickly.”
He didn’t speak loudly but he did speak urgently and then gave a soft, low whistle to call the others in as well.
An answer came from the scouts, who were already turning, quickly and quietly, to close in on the rest of the group. They, too, were vulnerable, so far from the others.
Those closest to them had already heard and were alert, passing the news to those who couldn’t hear. Elf or man, without instruction, responded by pairing up. One looked up into the trees, the other scanned the bushes around them. Men had an atavistic and ancient abhorrence of these creatures and no one of either race would discount instinct. Elon trusted his people enough not to need to remind them. Noise, too, wouldn’t serve them well here.
Colath didn’t need much urging or even the reminder. A cold chill had gone up his spine at the thought. Being on the ground was a bad position with kobolds around. He was exposed there. In one quick move he swung up into the saddle and drew his bow. Not his best weapon―that was the sword―but best against kobolds.
One kobold was bad enough but two were a nightmare.
With one kobold, a band this size was barely enough. For two? They were too few.Especially in country like this, with a lot of scrub trees and too much low cover. A bear and two cubs were a good enough meal for one kobold but not a second. This had happened some days ago, they would be hungry again and searching for prey.
Bears, wolves and mountain cats, all those natural creatures would avoid Elves, Men, or Dwarves unless they were desperate or starving. Kobolds, magically warped creatures of the borderlands, preferred the taste of men if they were near and would seek them out, although they would take a wounded Elf if they could. Elves were tougher prey.
Valerie Douglas is a prolific writer and genre-crosser, much to the delight of her fans. She reads and writes classic fantasy, romance, suspense, and as V.J. Devereaux, erotic romance. Who knows what will pop up down the road!Happily married, she's companion to two dogs, three cats and an African clawed frog named Hopper who delights in tormenting the cats from his tank.Valerie Douglas is the co-founder and one of the administrators of the 11,500+ member Indie Author Group - supporting writers around the world.She blogs at her own blog, The Indie Author Group, [email protected] Author Group and Two Midlist Indies.