by C.N. Lesley
Have you read Darkspire Reaches, a book that so captivated me that I missed meals and was unaware the sun had gone down? Read that first, as Serpent of the Shangrove is not exactly a “First Novel” (a book where you can jump into a series at any point). It’s a wonderful sequel, though.
In Darkspire Reaches, a young woman named Raven is terrified of the very real shapeshifting human dragons in her world, and suffers adventures only to find out the Drakken are related to her and to follow them through a portal to another world. Raven is also the main character in Shangrove, but the story picks up 14 years later when the portal reopens and her son Copper may be lost on the other side. She and her husband Connor are their people’s leaders but they do not go after their son alone. Dissatisfied by the conditions on that side of the portal their people all migrate with them back to their original world, but things there have changed dramatically. Their mountain aerie has been fouled and those they once trusted felt betrayed by their leaving and are now dissatisfied with the Drakken. Their enemies, however, have not changed, and are in collusion with some of their previous friends.
Which complicates things when Raven’s son is captured, and then her husband, looking for him, is captured and worse by one of their previous allies who is now so far into dark magic that she’s the Serpent of the Shangrove: the foulest character I’ve seen since the giant spider Shelob in The Lord of the Rings. A further complication is a proud young half-Drakken, native to the other world, who follows them through the portal by accident and gets far more than her needed lesson in humility from their enemies.
The worldbuilding is superb, the magical systems are unique and interesting. And there’s a setup at the conclusion which makes it obvious C.N. Lesley has more stories to tell in this world.