From the Goodreads description of the novel:
This story precedes that of An Act of Faith [book #1 in the series] by focusing on events which occurred in the Valley, 1,700 years before.
The Valley hosts the shrine of all the Lost Islands’ faiths and the cities of four Elvin peoples. It is the prize of kingdoms and the battlefield of many clashes of civilizations. From the war of Giants and Deities to the making of the fabled swords of the Bladesmiths; from the fall of a meteorite to the coming of Lon the Wise, the Valley is the epic history of millennia of creeds and coexistence, curses and slaughter, the cause of an all-pervading obsession which haunts the minds.
How did this remote vale become the symbolic centre of the Lost Islands? How did the events of Year 1,000 LC irremediably influence the essence of Elvin mysticism?
PRELUDE is the story of the three days when the Valley became the Nargrond Valley and the unique place that exists twice in the minds of all Elves, in the material and ethereal worlds.
I had presumed that a “Prelude” novel, book #0 of 4, would be a good place to start a series, even if such a novel was written after the trilogy was already published. In this case, I was wrong. Prelude relies on the reader already being familiar with the series and world in order to appreciate this ‘how it all started’ novel.
But for those of us not already vested in this high fantasy world of Elves on Lost Island, there’s little sense to what is happening or what the characters are doing. The entire action of the book takes place over the course of three days so it should be easy to follow them, but we’re constantly being led to understand that these are major events that will shape the world thousands of years in the future and in this case, three days hardly seems like enough time to see this event(s) unfold.
The names, the alliances, the places … it’s hard to follow and make sense of all of this without the prior experience of having read tales in this world already.
At the end of the book, the author presents a comprehensive glossary, timeline, biography of the Elvin Nations and specific people in each nation, and even the mythology of the world’s inhabitants. World-building? Top notch. C.A. Oliver has clearly thought things through on a macro (and micro) level. But world building is only a part of writing an exciting high fantasy. And by writing a tale of Elves – a fairly well-known class of fantasy beings – Oliver has set himself for extra scrutiny.
This is one of the rare cases where I wish I hadn’t bothered with a ‘prequel’ but had read the first book in the series. It sounds like something I might normally enjoy, but now I’m not sure I want to bother. The story seems massive and the history is impressive, but the writing itself isn’t as sharp and tight as one would normally expect for such an endeavor.
Looking for a good book? Prelude, by C.A. Oliver, is a prequel to the author’s Songs of the Lost Islands series but despite taking place thousands of years prior to the later books, it’s likely important to have already read books 1-3.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: C.A. Oliver
series: Songs of the Lost Islands #0
publisher: the author
Kindle Edition, 205 pages