Looking back, Karavans was a typical set-up novel. It focused mainly on worldbuilding, laying down the groundwork for the story, and introducing a diverse cast of characters — Audrun, Davyn, and their children Gillan, Ellica, Torvic, and Megritte; the Shoia guide Rhuan and his partner Darmuth; Rhuan’s cousin and courier Brodhi; fellow courier Bethid; and hand-reader Ilona, among various other supporting players.
So, plot-wise, there may not have been a lot going on, but personally I had no problems with this aspect of the book since Ms. Roberson does such an excellent job with the rest of the novel. For instance, all of the many characters were intimately established and I loved the unique, richly crafted world that was being brought to life, which included a land (Sancorra) war-torn by the conquering Hecari with their fearsome ‘decimations’ (1 in 10 persons are killed to set an example); the magical Shoia who can be killed and resurrected from death up to six times; and the mythical Alisanos, a sentient forest that lives and breathes magic, transforms all that may venture into its grasp, and can change location at will. Events drastically pick up toward the end of Karavans, and readers are left with a cliffhanger finish that finds a number of characters consumed by Alisanos.
And this is where Deepwood immediately picks up. Viewpoints are once again many — switching from Rhuan, Audrun, Gillan, Ellica and Torvic (who are all trapped within Alisanos) to those left outside its borders including Brodhi, Ilona, Davyn and Bethid. Within Alisanos, readers will get to follow Rhuan and Audrun as they not only try to survive, but also recover Audrun’s lost children. Along the way, we’ll get to learn more about Alisanos — its magic, how it changes a person, its inhabitants (including the one thousand gods), and its strange customs. Of those who survived Alisanos’ relocation, we’ll see Ilona deal with her loss of power; Bethid aid the survivors with their recent tragedy while further developing the rebellion against the Hecari; Brodhi continuing his rite of passage among the humans; and Davyn coping with the fact that all of his family is now ensnared by Alisanos. We’ll also get to learn more about Rhuan and Brodhi who are much more than just Shoia, as well as various other little subplots and surprises that Ms. Roberson has cleverly devised. And while many issues are resolved and questions answered by the end of Deepwood, just as many new ones are brought up, promising another sequel in Wild Road.
All in all, Deepwood is another terrifically written and exciting fantasy adventure by a veteran author who knows how to capture and maintain the readers’ attention. Really, the only issues I had with the novel was that it was shorter than Karavans (about 100 pages), we didn’t get to learn much more about such interesting side characters as Darmuth and Ferize, and certain storylines like the Sancorran’s uprising against the Hecari and Audurn’s child born four months ahead of term weren’t developed as much as I wanted, though I think we’ll get to see both of these plots expanded on in the next volume.
So, aside from these minor complaints, I don’t really have anything negative to say about Deepwood. It’s a fun, action-packed fantasy that builds on the imaginative mythos of its predecessor and will appeal to readers of all ages. In short, I definitely enjoyed both Karavans and Deepwood immensely, look forward to many more adventures set in this universe, and hope also to experience the numerous other novels that Jennifer Roberson has to offer.
Karavans — (2006-2013) Publisher: A NEW JOURNEY DAWNS. Audrun and her husband Davyd, along with the others of the land of Sancorra, have been left homeless because of the brutal Hecari. Consulting diviners, they learn that their newest child must be born in the peaceful province of Atalanda. They must now travel close to the sinister woodlands of Alisanos, where darkness awaits. Joining a karavan for safety, the family moves ever closer to the dangerous, mystical forest. And, as they are all about to discover, Alisanos is moving ever closer to them.