Monday, August 17, 2015

A Review of Seth Hammons’s Prelude to Discord [Book Three of The Keys]

(2012, ISBN 978-0-9859841-2-0)
In the past three years I have reviewed the first two books in this series—Unheard Of and The Silent Sound. With this third installment, Seth Hammons proves that he has not only created a richly detailed and intriguing world whose political and economic divisions and clashes speak to our own circumstances in many ways in 2015, but that this world he has created can sustain as a multi-book series for the long haul.
For those who have not read the first two books, I strongly recommend that you do so before continuing on with this review. All four books in the series are available on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle editions. 
As with the last two books, the rebellion sparked between the working-class, pagan Brecks and the mighty, militaristic Iori Empire is the centerpiece of the story, as the main characters, Rachel and Chastin (a Juliet and Romeo-esque coupling whose families are on opposite sides of the war) discover ever-more secrets about the use of music in their world as they travel by sea with an interesting array of sailors, all with diverse backgrounds and something to accomplish or prove. Their relentless pursuit of their personal missions causes plenty of micro-level conflicts amidst the larger backdrop of war, and I found myself continually shifting allegiances depending on the reveals.
Complicating all of their efforts are a pair of telepathic, sarcastic drumsticks that hold the essence of a mysterious character named Maletalio, who holds several secrets of his own that are still not close to revealed by the end of the third book.
Uniting the two sides, at least temporarily, is the common enemy of the sea-bound race called the demar, who are bred beneath the sea to wage war on the Humans. They employ magic and a fierce warrior ethic to do so, as well as unleashing an array of other sea creatures to do their will.
They are to mermaids as Nosferatu is to vampires—the scary truth about what truly monsters are, instead of some Disney sanitization of the things that dwell beneath and in the shadows.
Always at work in these books are the kinds of “Us vs. Them” mentalities in the characters that hit closest to home in the current state of lines in the sand in our world. Rich and poor; land- and sea-dwelling; religious and spiritual. And, within all of these broad-stroke dichotomies are subsets such as those that use music for good, or evil, or not at all (music being the metaphorical driver for power and desire that serves as the foundation for the series).
As with the first two books, Prelude to Discord is well imagined, well paced, and full of twists, surprises, and compelling questions. Seth Hammons is a very talented author, plain and simple. I look forward to reading the fourth book in the series, In Harmony’s Way.

This series is highly recommended for readers in their early teens to adults. The beautifully rendered maps by Zeyan Zhang (who also did the cover, which features the demar) and a Glossary makes it easy to keep track of the detailed world Hammons presents, and offers opportunities for reading clubs to engage with the books and the timely, relevant social, economic, and politic questions they explore.

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