Melissa McPhail’s debut novel Cephrael’s Hand has definitely been under the radar ever since its publication back in 2010. It only now seems to be picking up steam around the SFF community as readers are discovering this hidden gem asking themselves “why didn’t I read this book sooner”? I have binged this series over the past few months as the first five books in the series are released and I couldn’t be more exciting. A Pattern of Light and Shadow gets compared to the Wheel of Time in some circles due to the scope, huge cast of characters, and certain prophecies which Melissa McPhail turns on their head time after time. After reading the first four books, I can see the comparisons to George R.R Martin with how dark the series gets and this is the biggest compliment I can give to a new author. Lets dive into what Cephrael’s Hand is all about.
All things in this world is composed of patterns that connect life and the world around them. For Wheel of Time fans out there, it is similar to magic of the Aes Sadai. The patterns are split into five types each mastered by a different Vestal or master. Like Game of Thrones, the characters are spread through out the world moving towards there particular goals. We follow multiple POV characters with dozens of side characters. In Alorin…three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor’s brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D’Lacourte’s mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he’ll have to find him…
In the kingdom of Dannym…the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord…In the Nadori desert…tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.
Cephrael’s Hand is a character driven novel with plenty of political maneuvering, sometimes in the background to keep the mysteries fresh for the many shocking twists to come. Melissa McPhail writes her story with such elegance and fluidity that I can compare it to reading poetry. The only “negative” I can find is that this novel is a bit of a slow-burn especially in the beginning of the story. You are not always sure what the characters are doing nor what their intensions are. The story can also be confusing at times, but Melissa McPhail does a great job of showing you instead of telling you where the story is going. Once you hit that twenty five percent mark, the story and pacing take off like a freight train staying up after midnight saying to yourself “one more chapter”. Nothing is what it seems and no one, and I mean no one, is who they claim to be and you will have a blast discovering everyone’s true intentions.
Fans of A Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire (especially for the sequels), and more classical series like Memory, Sorrow, Thorn would enjoy reading Cephrael’s Hand. This novel completely took me by surprise and I immediately had to pick up book 2 as I didn’t want to leave these characters behind. I may compare it to other great works, but the story takes on a life of its own and its not like any other series I have read in this genre.
Melissa McPhail, you have made a life-long fan out of me and I need book 6 now!