The Keeper Chronicles, by JA Andrews, is a fantasy trilogy consisting of A Threat of Shadows, Pursuit of Shadows, and Siege of Shadows. There is so much to say about these three books that I can hardly even select a place to begin, and all of it is good. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that this is a truly masterful addition to the fantasy genre in particular and to literature in general.
Andrews takes all of the stereotypical fantasy tropes and doesn’t simply use, discard, or mutate them… she reinvigorates them, giving them renewed life and meaning in our increasingly jaded, cynical world. With her vivid, enchanting descriptions, her characters’ frequently delightful turns of phrase, an elegant, gripping plot that is driven by those same characters, and so much more, she recaptures the magic of fantasy itself in ways I think I have not seen since my own childhood, as I devoured the works of Lloyd Alexander, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and Brian Jacques. Brandon Sanderson might be my most favorite author and a master in his own right, but not all fantasies have to span galaxies and eons. There is beauty and excitement to be found in the simplicity of forests, mountains, and endless fields, as surely as there is such to be found among the stars. Andrews brings that more grounded, personal magic to life with wonderful, concise, enchanting skill.
Each book in the series follows a different main character, with those of previous works returning to expand on their respective tales. Each tale begins with a personal goal to save or protect someone dear to them, and this strong, personal motive leads them, as naturally as the flowing of a river, onto the larger stage, where they struggle to protect entire nations and peoples from slaughter and torment. The colorful cast includes elves, dwarves, and humans of several cultures, not to mention a dragon that just keeps coming back, much to the consternation of a particular dwarf. Each of these races is given new depth as the world is explored, and that world, unlike a sad majority of fantasy worlds these days, is bright with bewildering beauty (as opposed to being some dystopian cesspool).
It bears mentioning that the Keepers themselves, whom the series is named for, are the magic-users of a particular kingdom, but that is only a small part of what they do. Indeed, they don’t do that much magic to begin with, but measure out when they use it, to make the most difference at pivotal moments. And theirs is not the only magic system either, as another culture uses magical stones and another uses blood magic or something like that, but I digress. What Keepers really do is keep knowledge, keep stories, keep records of the people and their names, and this they share, keeping the history and identity of their nation intact, and thus keeping the nation itself intact. It is a small, subtle, important role which they play, as they watch over their homeland, and they are generally venerated for it.
The language of Andrews’ writing is vivid and detailed without bogging the reader down in irrelevant details. (Robert Jordan could have learned a thing or two there!)
The plot spans the known world, but plays out on a very personal level for each of the heroes and villains involved, which is no small feat. Even the backstory, that of a terrible villain who rampaged across a swathe of the world, turns out to have been played out at a personal level, not only an epic one, and the same for the young man who inherits this villain’s dark legacy and continues his vile work.
The content of the story is… well, clean, for lack of another way of putting it. There’s no needless sex, violence, language, or other “mature” content. It’s just good, clean fun as found in the classic fantasies of old, which I daresay we could use a good deal more of these days. It leaves a good deal of room for the characters themselves to shine, and shine they do. They wrestle with themselves, their desires, their hopes and fears, and they ultimately make the best choice they can, despite the personal pains they must overcome to do so, and in the end they reap the harvest of love and happiness. That is what ultimately separates the heroes and villains: the heroes choose the happier, more difficult path.
The saga is intriguing at the beginning, riveting throughout the middle, and very satisfactory at the end, even as one must finally turn the last page, set down the last book, and say goodbye to these characters… for the moment, at least. 😉
With all of that said, hopefully with an avoidance of spoilers, JA Andrews may certainly expect me to pick up her next book! Heck, I already read the story of Tomkin and the Dragon, and I look forward to bingeing the next trilogy, a prequel entitled Keeper Origins.
Rating: I give this series a solid 10 stars out of 10.