Awaken the Three
D. L. Jennings
Indigo River Publishing (2020)
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau for Reader Views (1/2021)
“Awaken the Three” is the sequel to D. L. Jennings’s debut novel, “Gift of the Shaper.” It follows some familiar characters from its predecessor and introduces several new ones. Jennings takes his readers to mysterious and unexplored reaches of Derenar and Gal’dorok as armies clash over their claims to an ancient city.
Jennings’s greatest strength lies in writing excellent battle sequences. This includes everything from small skirmishes with one or two participants to full scale clashes between armies. His simple and straight-forward prose lends itself to these action-packed scenes, creating a quick pace and an extra sense of urgency to an already tenuous situation.
Religion and mythology play a huge roll in the various civilizations introduced throughout the Highglade series, and “Awaken the Three” is not an exception. Jennings builds a vast mythos that’s weaved into the lives of his characters and the landscape of the novel. One of the challenges of writing such an expansive religion is explaining it within the story without dumping too much information on the reader at once. Sometimes, in an effort to avoid that problem, the opposite happens; the reader is left with too little information. That is the unfortunate case here.
It’s obvious this world’s religion runs deeply throughout every civilization introduced by Jennings, but it’s not always well-explained to the reader. With such an extensive religious system playing a pivotal role within the novel, explaining it precisely and clearly to the reader is vital. There are parts of “Awaken the Three” that are very confusing to the reader, because the author has built such a complicated religion, one that his characters understand intimately, but that his readers do not.
Multiple points of view are another challenging aspect many fantasy novels handle in different ways. There are parts of this book that handle it well, and other parts that do not. There are many different points of view to balance in just this one book, and that includes narrators that readers are already familiar with as well as new ones.
There’s an ambitious number of narrators in “Awaken the Three,” and not all of them contribute equal parts to the story. With a larger number of narrators, it’s important to create a reason for the audience to care about each one. Some of these narrators were also only used once or twice, and they simply weren’t featured enough in the story. Their stories are barely introduced before they’re wrapped up. Many of them feel unfinished. The narrators who were initially introduced in Gift of the Shaper are more fully developed than the new ones. The older narrators also carry the weight of the main plotlines. These were clearly the characters that the author was more comfortable writing as.
“Awaken the Three” explores the consequences of the characters’ decisions in the first novel. Author D. L. Jennings successfully expands that initial conflict, bringing his readers deeper into his world. That conflict is one of this novel’s greatest strengths. The strongest change that could be made to upcoming novels in the Highglade series is focusing in on the most important narrators and disregarding the less important ones. That being said, “Awaken the Three is still a solid read. Any fan of “Gift of the Shaper” is sure to enjoy this adventurous and action-packed follow-up!