Friday, 4 July 2014

Chasing the Valley: Borderlands by Skye Melki-Wegner

Chasing the Valley: Borderlands by Skye Melki-Wegner is the second book in the Chasing the Valley trilogy. I have previously reviewed the first book, Chasing the Valley. If you haven't read the first book, it's probably best to skip this review if you're spoiler averse. I'm pretty sure just the blurb contains a bit of spoiler.
Danika and her crew of escaped refugees are seeking the safety of the Magnetic Valley – and trying to evade Sharr Morrigan, the king's most lethal hunter. But the borderlands they must cross to reach the Valley are smugglers' territory: lawless, wild and steeped in ancient magic. When one of the crew is badly wounded, Danika turns to the smugglers for help – and accepts a bargain that might prove deadly.

It is Lukas, however, who hides the most dangerous secret. What has he seen through the eagle's eyes? The answer can be found in an alchemy charm and a smuggler's tale, and will lead Danika and her friends to an electrifying, unputdownable showdown.
"Unputdownable" is a silly word, but it is a good descriptor in this case. As soon as I started reading Borderlands, I was wondering why I hadn't picked it up sooner (it's been out for 6 months). Oh well, at least I don't have to wait to read the third book, which has just come out.

Borderlands has everything I loved about Chasing the Valley, including things I had forgotten I loved. Five(ish) teenagers continue their difficult and high-stakes journey from their home city to the mythical Valley where they hope to seek asylum. They're still being chased by the King's ruthless hunters (and one in particular who has it out for them) and, even without that, the going is tough.

Danika and the crew meet new people, loose people, gain other people... actually one of the things that has really amused me across both the first two books is that, after learning before they left that a crew of five is the optimal number to survive the journey to the valley, they crew has almost continuously contained five people. Not always the same five people, but five people. So I guess the advice at the start was right (and it probably shouldn't amuse me as much as it has).

There was only one small thing that bothered me in this book and it really was small. Without venturing into spoilers, there was one point where some valuable (and useful) stuff was available to be easily grabbed, and we're not told whether anyone did grab it. Only, through omission, that Danika did not. I'm hoping it comes up again in the third book and we learn that Teddy the thief grabbed it when Danika wasn't looking. Sorry about the vagueness, there.

Honestly, I don't have much else to say about Borderlands. I really enjoyed it, for all the same reasons I enjoyed the first book. The worldbuilding, including the magic system, is pretty original, particularly in execution. The behaviour of the royal family continues to be baffling — possibly too baffling, in terms of plausible sustainability — but works with the story. Looking back at my review of book 1, I see that I objected to the fact that everyone seemed to obey the taboo of not exposing their necks before they turned eighteen and could safely reveal their proclivity (type of magic). That was actually addressed in book 2, when they meet people who live outside the law in a different way to the main characters. So yay.

Basically, Chasing the Valley continues to be an excellent series. I highly recommend it to any fans of fantasy, especially anyone interested in fairly original, alchemical fantasy. It is a series to be enjoyed by all readers, young and old. Although I won't argue that it is indeed YA (the main characters are around seventeen), it doesn't necessarily "feel" like YA secondary world fantasy. Possibly because my experience with other YA secondary world fantasies has been less good, but if you're in the same boat, don't pass up Chasing the Valley.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: January 2014, Random House (AU)
Series: Chasing the Valley book 2 of 3
Format read: ePub (iBooks)
Source: Purchased from iBooks
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

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