Y’all! Today is exciting news! Not only is it Friday and now officially less than a fortnight to my Leeli girl’s (niece’s) first birthday, but it’s also release day for book 2 in the swashbuckling YA gaslamp series, the Turrim Archive, by our very own Jenelle Leanne Schmidt!
I had the extreme privilege and pleasure of reading Mantles of Oak and Iron before its public release, and y’all, what can I say other than tie those lifelines to the mainmast and brace yourself!
Book 1 in this epic series sets us up in a vast and intricate world of flying ships (think Disney’s Treasure Planet, but not in space), political and cultural diversity, grumpy mentors, mysterious powers, pirates, and a group of friends who overcome incredible odds together to come out the other side stronger, wiser, and older than age can account for.
Book 2 takes all of that awesome adventure and cranks it up! I so enjoyed this second phase of this epic-scale story, and it’s going to be difficult to talk about how much I enjoyed it without spoiling any of all the surprises that had me exclaiming (sorry, Mom . . .) and chuckling deviously.
Before I go further, though, I’m going to plug the author’s own post on 13 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Read Mantles of Oak and Iron (because they may also be 13 reasons why you should grab a copy right here and now). That said, these are some things I, personally enjoyed about the book (and characters!)
- Brotherhood — Stories brimming with the bonds of brotherhood are always going to be my favorites, and Mantles carries that banner high throughout. The threesome of Grayden, Wynn, and Beren, who became a close unit after surviving a hijacking and abduction together, finally enroll in the military Academy where they are put to the test in ways they never fathomed before. But no matter what challenges they face, they trust each other, combining Grayden’s leadership skills, Wynn’s wit, and Beren’s strength to overcome the odds. We also get to see the addition of other young warriors to this group and how they overcome adversity and grudges through harsh trials. Illustrated by perhaps my favorite quote from the book:
“When you stand beside someone and face the enemy together, you become brothers. When you train together to defend our nations, you become brothers. The second you stepped across the Academy threshold, you became a part of this family.”~Mantles of Oak and Iron
- Another aspect that closely tied into the above trope is the wilderness survival. A simple mission turns into a race against time and a battle against the elements as the characters traverse dangerous territory in the early spring. Trudging through snow, then heavy rain and frozen mud, sudden avalanches, the loss of gear and supplies, getting lost . . . I felt cold and hard pressed right alongside this brother band as they fought to keep moving, facing and tackling each challenge that came, and grew as a unit. This section was one of the hardest to put down!
- Some of the most popular stories these days are the ultra-fast paced ones that barely let you catch your breath before cataclysm after cataclysm rains down upon the characters’ heads—and there is definitely a place for that. But in this book we get a delectably paced unfurling of events that are explored from multiple angles as we follow several characters scattered across the continent, giving the world a fuller, deeper picture and which mounts the tension of this looming war in exciting and interesting ways.
Because it’s not just waiting. It’s these guys surviving a mountain over here, those guys developing countermeasures over there, these folks infiltrating the enemy over this way, political labyrinths over that way, and assassinations going on in the meanwhile. No time for sitting still!
- Which leads me into the worldbuilding. I love me some worldbuilding almost as much as brotherhoods. The land of Turrim and its varied countries is vast and steeped in lore that we get to explore a bit more as our favorite grumpy wizard gets more involved in things (#goteamdalmir!) The diversity in cultural customs is explored in fun (and sobering) ways that completely immersed me into the world and balanced well with story—until I wasn’t just reading in the evenings. I was going to Turrim.
- But it wasn’t just the worldbuilding and the tropes that kept me turning pages after bedtime. The characters that carried the story on their backs kept the grandiose events grounded and personal.
On one front, there’s Grayden, the son of an orchardist with an uncanny sense of premonition that has kept him and his friends alive and in once piece on multiple occasions. He is a natural leader and his friends continuously turn to him for direction, their faith in him unshaken. Nevertheless, he doubts his own abilities to shoulder such responsibility and even fears the role when it’s placed upon him. But instead of running and hiding from the position, he takes up that mantle with a humble determination to fulfil the requirements of leading his brothers, of making tough decisions, and I am so excited to see where this takes him as the story progresses.
On the other side we have Dalmir and Marik. Both of these men struggle with dark pasts, pain, choices they’ve made that they aren’t proud of, and while each is unique in their trajectories, they are alike in their desire for redemption. Dalmir fears he’s burned his bridges and has become unworthy of the one person he respects (and needs) the most. Marik turned to a life of piracy to exact revenge on the one who caused him and those he cares about scarring hurt and suffering. Dalmir seeks to right his wrongs. Marik seeks to regain his sense of honor by fighting for something bigger than himself.
Throughout the story is this theme of facing down terrible odds and never giving up, of clinging to hope and keeping your eyes on the light. I have no idea where the story is going to go from here (I mean, the trees, y’all. And what about Ioan?!?!?!), and while it’s frightening to imagine what sorrows await as the war breaks across the land, I’m also excited to see how these characters will grow and overcome such obstacles. I can hardly wait to see more of their courage, their rakish stunts, and their fierce hearts.
(Have I convinced you yet?) Read here what it’s about:
Grayden thought he had four years to decide his future… he was wrong.
War is imminent. The Igyeum has already begun incursions across Telmondir’s borders. The headmaster of the military academy issues a new directive: all students will be fast-tracked through the program. They will be full-fledged defenders by the end of the year. But when a training exercise turns deadly, Grayden must keep his head and become the leader his friends need.
Captain Marik has witnessed evil beyond imagining. Enough to make him sign on to the wizard Dalmir’s cause. But will the council of the west accept a pirate among their ranks? And will Marik’s crew join this mission, or will they consider him a traitor to all they once stood for?
Meanwhile, deep in the mountains lurks a hidden danger that threatens them all.
Oh, I get chills just thinking about it!
(Psst: You’ll get the reference after chapter 1)
Haven’t read book 1, The Orb and the Airship, yet? First off: whyever not? Secondly: Great news! Through until the 15th of this January (Monday!), you can grab the ebook for $0.99!
Koen clapped his hands together. “The Headmaster instructed me to give you a bit of advice.”
They looked at him expectantly.
“Don’t get lost. Don’t get separated. Don’t die.”~Mantles of Oak and Iron