An Ember in the Wind by Robert Loyd Watson

6/13/14:

An Ember in the Wind by Robert Loyd Watson

Ideas are like embers; they spark from some great fire, fly free, and glow for a while on their own. Some flicker out before they land. Others, though, ignite a new fire, which will cast a great light upon the world.

Mara is a young girl living in the height of the Italian Renaissance. When she runs away from home to join a group of scholars, she is ushered into an unseen world of fantasies – where the forests, flowers, and fields all have words to say. They clue her into the existence of the “sequence,” an intangible medium that governs the world like the gears of a clock, and instruct her to uncover it.

Just as she is about to unravel the riddle, she is forced from her home by an unknown assailant. Her grief causes her to lose her grasp of the magical world she once knew. Desperate to not completely let go, she travels to the city of Locana and employs the help of “the Ori,” a mysterious tutor who promises to help her see the world with the clarity she once had.

Meanwhile, her activities in the city draw the attention of a powerful and rising cult. They know that knowledge of the “sequence” bears implications of powers beyond even Mara’s own wild imagination, and seek to stop her. Mara realizes that in order to unravel the inner clockwork of the world, she must be able to see it with unadulterated eyes. But this means turning a blind eye to the impending perils of the cult and a brewing war. She must choose between dealing with the realities of a cruel world, or attempting to regain the innocence she lost.

An Ember in the Wind is the second book in the An Orthogonal Universe series (book 1 was featured here). Picking up where A Foundation in Wisdom ends, it continues Watson’s unique blend of thought-provoking fantasy and quirky humor.

John (the traveling history professor) and Sheridan (the eccentric hitchhiker who isn’t quite what he seems) have escaped the ominous clouds that threatened to swallow them at the end of book 1, but that doesn’t mean things are back to normal. The world still seems suspiciously empty, and Sheridan still insists that it’s ending. With Marcus’s story finished though, he has to turn to a new protagonist — Mara, a young girl living in the Italian Renaissance — to try and support his claim.

Like Marcus, Mara is exceptionally curious about the world around her and after drinking from the Well of Enlightenment, soon finds herself on a quest not unlike the one Marcus was sent on — though hers starts under slightly more traumatic circumstances. Having lost everything except her enhanced insight into the world’s workings, Mara travels to a nearby city, finding a few quirky companions (and even love) along the way. Once there though, she comes face to face with the uglier side of humanity. She is shunned for being different, and the prejudice being spread by the local cult eventually turns the city’s distrust into fear. But Mara ignores the brewing unrest, trying to unravel the mysterious “sequence” she’s been charged with finding before it’s too late.

Meanwhile, John and Sheridan are continuing their trip west, punctuating the long hours with witty interjections and thought-provoking insights gleaned from Mara’s tale. John doesn’t care for the picture Sheridan is painting of him though, and eventually decides to do something about it, resulting in one of the worst (and I mean that in the best possible way) cliff-hangers I’ve come across.

An action-packed, emotional roller coaster, Watson will leave you on the edge of your seat, hoping that book 3 drops soon. Posing questions like “what it means to be human” and “what the true definition of free will is,” Watson has once again created a story that will resonate with readers looking for a dash of intellect in their fantasy. With a decidedly Alice in Wonderland feel, An Ember in the Wind is easily my favorite of the series. Book 3 has some big shoes to fill, but I look forward to seeing what comes next.

If you’d like to check it out for yourself, it is available in both print and eBook formats at all the usual locations (handy list located here). For more information on the author and series as a whole, be sure to meander your way to the official website, where, for a limited time, you can find book 1 (A Foundation in Wisdom) as a free download.