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The Fathomless Fire by T. Wharton

Wharton, Thomas. The Fathomless Fire. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2012. Print.

The Fathomless Fire is a sequel to Wharton’s first fantasy novel, The Shadow of Malabron. In Shadow, we met Will Lightfoot, an angry young teen catapulted into the magical world of the Perilous Realm. This land consists of all the characters and plot conventions of the fairy and folk tales of our world. They have been deftly altered to place them in a realistic medieval setting, with a few twists. Stories are the key to the magic of the Realm, and the power of the land is in the hands of those who understand these stories. There, Will meets Rowen and her grandfather, the Loremaster. The Perilous Realm is under siege by Malabron, the Dark Lord, who wishes to end all stories but his own, bringing the land into shadow. Sound familiar? It should, as Wharton has brought all of the traditional archetypes and elements of fantasy to bear in these tales: Troubled young protagonist, the dark lord, the wise wizard, the knight, and the companions who are assembled for the quest, to assist the protagonist in his fight against the evil in a medieval setting. Wharton has used these conventions to his own advantage here, creating a rich and detailed world.

Shadow of Malabron ended with Rowen discovering that she is the new Loremaster, and Will’s return to our world. The Fathomless Fire begins with Will discovering that his friends need his help, so he revisits the Realm. This time, the narrative is divided between Will and Rowen’s separate storylines. Will is off to find his friend Shade, a talking wolf who was his closest companion. Rowen is in the town of Fable, working with her grandfather to develop her skills as a Loremaster. Of course, neither journey is as easy as it seems, and both Will and Rowen must be flexible to follow the twists and turns of their fates.

Wharton has obviously done his homework. He has built a vibrant and interesting world, full of detail and character. However, it appears that Wharton, in his eagerness to introduce as many recognizable stories from our world, misses opportunities to flesh out situations which would allow the reader to fully experience his world. Characters remain blocky, lacking the in-depth characterization which would deepen our connection to them. While the multiplicity of story threads Wharton has woven throughout this book may be overwhelming for some younger readers, those with a good understanding of the fantasy genre will be drawn to this series. Wharton is an accomplished writer, and his language and descriptive passages draws the reader into the Perilous Realm and the journeys of Will and Rowen. I recommend reading Shadow of Malabron first, to become familiar with the Realm, before embarking on this second novel. Readers who are looking for a new high fantasy novel, but who are not quite ready for The Lord of the Rings will find this tale intriguing and enjoyable.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Lissa Davies

Lissa Davies is an elementary teacher-librarian in Edmonton. She is a passionate reader, and is always excited to share new books and engage readers!