Review: The Immortal Serpent – K.E. Barron

I was very thrilled to receive an email from the author of Eye of Verishten requesting a review of her second book, The Immortal Serpent last year.  Due to having a baby and some other life changing events, I haven’t had the opportunity to review it until now.  I’m also very flattered that she gave my blog a shoutout on her front page.  So, here is the long awaited review of The Immortal Serpent!

The synopsis reads:

Always forward; Never back

Jeth, cursed at birth, is forced to leave his homeland and find a place for himself in a world descending into war.  Overnight, he goes from fervent soldier to desert thief who now must lie, cheat, and steal to survive in a hostile, foreign land alongside an enigmatic and sultry companion.

Across the ocean, Vidya undergoes a harrowing transformation into a winged weapon that will avenge her mother and save her island nation.

Their fates are entwined by the infamous Overlord of Herran.  One is running from him, the other is hunting him.  Neither can escape the Immortal Serpent.

Pretty attention grabbing description.  I’ve read the Eye of Verishten (EOT), written by this author, and was blown away by it, so I was very excited to read this one.  Just like with EOT, this author has created her scenes with familiar imagery that makes it easy to imagine, but in a way that sets it apart and makes it stand on its alone.  I’m going to first talk about the things I loved about this book.

The story begins with Vidya and her transformation, and it sucked me in immediately.  The intense imagery, the violence, the mythology, the emotion of the scene, it was all so intriguing I was hooked.  A very well done opening.  I’m a huge mythology — especially Greek mythology — buff.  And while the Siren colony in Immortal Serpent isn’t exactly like the Greek myths, it certainly resonated with me, especially being at the start of the book.  I love how the author took a well known concept and transformed it into something unique.

Then we switch to Jeth, the main character, and who we met in EOT where he played a side kick/comic relief role.  The author has maintained the comedic witty character here, and I’m happy that I recognize him in more than just name between the two novels.

The first thing I’ll mention is the dialogue.  There were so many excellent interactions throughout the book between Jeth and the other characters, and the scenes felt very organic and real.  The author is very talented in coming up with realistic conversations and witty phrases, and I was really drawn in by them and found myself smiling and laughing throughout.

I also appreciated the subtle references made to EOT, like little Easter eggs for fans through phrases here and there.  They were not overdone and were interesting.  Even with these references, they’re so subtle that this book still stands on its own… for the most part.  More about that later.

The map at the beginning of the book was a nice addition, it put everything into perspective as I read and eliminated the need for boring drawn out descriptions of where the characters were going.  There was a lot of traveling around in this book, and the map made it very easy on the eyes and brain to keep track.

Where EOT focused primarily on Ingleheim, this book weaves together many different regions, and she does it quite seamlessly.  There is a lot going on, but it’s balanced well.  At the root of it all and bringing all these regions harmoniously together is the mythology.  About 3/4 of the way through the book, this mythology is clearly laid out in one scene that I absolutely loved.  I really appreciate a good mythology, and the author has created a completely new world, with new gods, a new creation story, a new Apocalypse —  it’s fantastic.  I really enjoyed this piece and the book really picked up speed after this mythology is explored in depth, and I could not put it down after.

I really appreciated several of the supporting characters in this book as well, namely Snake-Eye, who at first seemed to just be a powerful overlord type but really ended up being a complicated figure more central to the story than I expected.  I also found humor in the fact that Jeth and Vidya held differing opinions on whether Snake-Eye was a male or female, which was never truly revealed to the reader, and that added some lightness to this character and mystery that I enjoyed.

I also liked the character Melikheil, the mage.  He is mentioned in EOT and is painted as a rather unsavory character there, but in the Immortal Serpent, his moral character is left to the reader’s interpretation, and we’re only allowed to watch what he does and judge him based off of that, which I appreciated.  I still feel like he’s a nasty person, but what he does in this book makes me wonder about his true motives, and it’s a good kind of curiosity.  So well done on that point as well.  I have a feeling that the author has a special place for this character in her world and we’ll find out more about him later.

The book ends well and wraps up the main story arc, while still leaving a few things left to explore for book 2 – namely the origin of humanity according to the mythology, which I am very interested to learn about – and it also opens a new arc for Vidya and her conquest to save her island.  I find it fitting that the book should both begin and end with her, and both ends leave the reader wanting more.

Now onto a few things that I had some issues with.

Jeth’s love interest, Anwarr, is introduced as a sly, sexy, sophisticated woman who is out to get what she wants and is not interested in looking back or feeling sorry for whoever gets in her way.  She is a very strong character at first, and I liked her a lot.  As the book progresses however, she morphs into a sort of whiny, sensitive type that is common in most romance novels, and she lost her sophistication and mystery, making the scenes with her and Jeth drag on.

I didn’t feel a real connection between them, and in fact, the whole time I thought their relationship was temporary until Jeth’s first love mentioned at the beginning of the book came into play.  When she never did, I felt a bit misled.  I would have invested much more interest into Anwarr and Jeth’s relationship if I had not been holding out for the other girl to arrive on the scene.  After finishing the book, why she was even mentioned is confusing to me.  There was very little conflict with Jeth in letting her go and starting his relationship with Anwarr, and it made him seem shallow, which doesn’t really fit with the rest of his personality.  This other love interest was never mentioned again, and it felt like a tiny loose end that had a huge impact on how I viewed the entire story.

There’s also a very erotic sex scene that comes out of nowhere and does little to enhance their relationship or move along the story, and there isn’t much for the reader to imagine since it is so detailed.  The style isn’t consistent with the other sexual encounters Jeth has in the book either, making this one seem out of place.  It didn’t help that I was a disenchanted with their romance at this point.

Anwarr’s true importance to the overall story snuck into the last quarter of the book.  The mystery surrounding her at the beginning was highly warranted for her part later, but somewhere in the middle it took a vacation.  I was honestly expecting her to disappear forever at one point, and not have such a key role.  Her final scene in the book was very heart-wrenching, shocking, and again, came out of nowhere, which did redeem her, but Anwarr’s character seems to change and shift so suddenly throughout the book that she just seems lost between her great start and gripping ending.  I did love the surprise factor though.  Did NOT see it coming.

More about the middle of the book:  There are lots of scenes where Jeth and/or Vidya are getting into arguments or fights with each other or another character, the typical “that’s my girl not yours” type arguments from Jeth, and the “I’m a badass chick who can snap men like twigs” type scenes from Vidya.  Scene after scene of brawls, thrown fists, snide back talking that turns physical, tables and shelves etc that are dislodged by some altercation or another, bodies flying, that it really became reminiscent of a 90s TV show, Xena came to mind.  Every chapter, or so it seemed, had some kind of exaggerated tension, and much of it didn’t move the story along at all, it just slowed my progress through the middle significantly, and was unnecessary for character development.  It is very clear by the opening scene that Vidya is bad ass female.  Same with Jeth, his strength, skills, and devoted personality is so well laid out early on that these scenes were repetitive, not to mention super choreographed and reminiscent of a screenplay more than a novel.

I mentioned earlier that this book, though taking place in the same world as EOT, mostly stands on its own.  Where it deviates from this is the part of the timeline where Jeth goes to Ingleheim.  The readers who have not read EOT will find this a bit confusing.  In the space of a paragraph, Jeth goes to Ingleheim and returns, and characters he meets in EOT are mentioned as though the readers of Immortal Serpent know who they are.  For fans of the author, this is not really a problem, and the Easter eggs may bring some nostalgia.  But for new readers, this would be highly confusing, and would seem to introduce new characters and story arcs that fizzle out immediately and add no value to the overall story of the Immortal Serpent.  There is also an EOT bad guy named General Nadila who is brought in at the end and given no introduction, even though his interaction with Jeth makes it obvious that there is a previous relationship.  Readers who have not read EOT will be very confused.  Given that this book is marketed as a standalone, I really think it detracts a lot from the fast paced ending.

In the end, the gods of the mythology actually start battling which I thought was super duper awesome!  I love bringing higher powers into mortal conflicts, it really makes me tingle, especially when the mythology is as good as the Immortal Serpent.  However, it felt rushed, and was given less attention than the brawl scenes that encompassed page after page after page.  For the overarching impact this battle had on the story, the attention given to it was severely underwhelming, and it had so. much. potential.  This was the climax of Jeth’s entire journey, and I wanted it to be EPIC.

Overall, despite the issues I had with it, I really did enjoy this book, especially the first half and the way the author wove her complex world together with so many different cultures.  And the ending really ramped up and kept the pages turning.  The mythology, wit, charm, and mystery surrounding the novel’s main theme was very complex, well thought out, and nicely executed overall.  I will definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out.

The Immortal Serpent, by K.E. Barron, can be purchased on Amazon and through her website www.kebarron.com.  There is also some pretty awesome book art that she has up on her website too that brings a little more magic to her novels.

If you enjoyed this review, please subscribe!  And please feel free to suggest more self-published books for review!

 

 

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