Shattered Hopes by Ulff Lehmann is the sequel to Shattered Dreams and the second novel in the A Light in the Dark series. I very much enjoyed Shattered Dreams because it was a nice harsh piece of military fantasy that showed just how the introduction of magic to war would result in a complete transformation of how it’s fought. It is an interesting mix of gritty on-the-ground action and a “return of magic” scenario that reminds me a bit of Jon Snow’s part of A Song of Ice and Fire combined with the War of Five Kings.
The sequel picks up immediately after the events of the original novel, which I understand is because they were originally one larger Tolkien-esque omnibus. The primary protagonist, Drangar, is recovering unnaturally fast from his injuries in the previous adventure. The others are struggling to repulse the Chanastardhian army that has shattered every single defense they have up until this point. They now have the power of a single sorceress, Easlisaid, that is able to do incredible damage to their enemies’ forces but is a resource that could easily kill herself through overexertion.
We get a lot more insight into the Chanastardhian forces this book with the introduction of Mireynh. The commander of the forces is a Stannis Barthaeon-esque fanatic who has nothing but contempt for any soldier who surrenders or (worse) switches sides. This causes a severe issue for his army as he wants nothing to do with those who might join his cause. His own followers are appalled by his actions as he forces the conflict into one where the only option is to utterly crush their enemies.
The big appeal of Ulff Lehmann’s writing is that he takes A Song of Ice & Fire approach to the conflict. No one, not even Drangar, is so central to the conflict that they will decide it on their own. Instead, much of the book is about getting perspectives from each side as well as multiple classes. We know what it’s like to be a soldier defending the walls, a nobleman plotting the attack, and peasants just caught up in events.
I think my favorite part of the book is the unusual friendship that emerges between Kildanor and Drangar. Kildanor comes from a society where magic never went away and is an immortal wizard. His perspective on the conflict going on is that it’s just a battle between men and completely unimportant. He’s much more interested in the dark side of magic’s return and how it could potentially change the course of life on their planet. Drangar is a traumatized PTSD-suffering soldier who doesn’t really care about the larger matters at work. It’s an interesting contrast to Easlisaid who is using that very world-changing power to affect the “petty war.”
If I have any complaints about the book, it’s that Ulff Lehmann doesn’t particularly care to fill you in on the events of previous books or remind you of who is who. Characters show up and you are expected to remember who they are as well as what they did in the previous chapters. There’s no hand-holding going on and it can be a bit disconcerting if you read the previous book months ago.
In conclusion, Shattered Hopes is a solid piece of dark military fantasy. I think fans of Ulff Lehmann’s first book will enjoy the sequel and want to carry on to the next book. It is an old fashioned epic and benefits from avoiding the cliches of good vs. evil in the battles within. Mireynh may be a bastard but no one’s hands are clean.
Buy Shattered Hopes by Ulff Lehmann