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Melissa McPhail

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Cephrael's Hand, Book 1 of A Pattern of Shadow & Light
by Melissa McPhail   

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Publisher:  Outskirts Press ISBN-10:  1432759671 Type: 


Copyright:  June 10, 2009 ISBN-13:  9781432759674

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Two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a great battle, neither knowing the other is alive... A traitor works in exile while preparing for the disaster only he knows is coming... A race of beings from beyond the fringe of the universe begin uncreating the world from within...

And all across the land, magic is dying.

Cephrael's Hand: Winner of The Written Arts Award for Best Fiction & Best SF/Fantasy. Now also a Finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year! 

“All things are composed of patterns…”  And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:

In Alorin…three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it.  One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Björn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor’s brand.  It is the Adept Vestal Raine D’Lacourte’s mission to learn what Björn knows in the hopes of salvaging his race.  But first he’ll have to find him…

In the kingdom of Dannym…the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible.  Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord…

In the Nadori desert…tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past.  But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.  Honor-bound to serve the First Lord in return for his life, Trell continues on his appointed path, yet each day unveils new and stranger secrets that eventually call into question everything he knows….  

Professional Reviews

Reviewed by Charline Ratcliff for RebeccasReads (12/10)
The annual literary awards program that RebeccasReads hosts is coming up and I was asked if I would be willing to review "Cephrael's Hand" by Melissa McPhail. I always enjoy reading a good fantasy and even though my "free" time is limited and this book is a whopping six hundred and thirty-four pages I quickly accepted. Just to let you know, "Cephrael's Hand" is the first in the "A Pattern of Shadow & Light" series. In other words don't expect this book and its tale to finish together and don't expect to read it in one sitting...

So, there are three major parts interwoven throughout "Cephrael's Hand." First is the realm of Alorin. Alorin, and its Adept race, are dying because of a genocidal war that happened three hundred years earlier. Only Bjorn van Gelderan holds the knowledge to revert this decline but, unfortunately, he's the same man who was branded a traitor for his heinous betrayals during those Adept Wars. Raine D'Lacourte, an Adept himself, has been charged with the saving of his race but to do so he must first locate Bjorn who isn't really interested in being found...

Next we move on to the kingdom of Dannym where the sole surviving heir to the Eagle Throne, Prince Ean val Lorian, faces a tenuous and tempestuous future. Lorian's blood-brother Creighton is slain during a failed assassination attempt against the Prince, and now Prince Lorian is determined to find the responsible party. His quest for justice leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by the one his people call "First Lord..."

Lastly we visit the Nadori desert and meet Trell, a well respected soldier, who has no recollection of his life before he came to be known as Trell of the Tides. As he heads off to try to uncover the mystery of his past disaster befalls him, placing him squarely in the debt of those who are sworn to serve the First Lord...

I finally finished "Cephrael's Hand" and I have to say it was a fantastic read. It was interesting. It was well written and, believe it or not, it was descriptive without becoming verbose. I was pretty much on the edge of my seat as I read wondering what was going to happen next. Melissa McPhail is an extremely talented writer and she did a phenomenal job of cohesively winding these different strands throughout "Cephrael's Hand."

Needless to say, I give "Cephrael's Hand" a five-star rating and am anxiously awaiting the release of Book Two...

Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views (11/10)
"Cephrael's Hand" is a book containing many stories and readers could find themselves getting discouraged early on because of the multiple plots. However, patience does pay off because the plots are all part of the same story and they begin to converge as the story progresses.

Trell is a man without a past who has spent the previous five years fighting in the service of the Emir. Before that, his mind is a blank slate. Aside from his first name, he remembers nothing about the man he was. With the permission of the Emir and the blessing of the water goddess, Naiadithine, he sets out on a quest to rediscover his past. Along the way, he faces numerous obstacles and encounters many people who are more than merely mortal, including the daughters of the water goddess who sent him on his journey. Trell doesn't realize it yet but his quest is a small part of a much bigger game; a game that has been going on for centuries and that may soon come to an end. Trell's role could impact what that end is, but how can he choose a side when he isn't even aware that he's playing?

Prince Ean is returning home from a long absence, when he suddenly finds himself the target of a kidnapping. Unable to fight against the otherworldly forces that face him, he finds himself hauled away by his captors. The trials that Ean is forced to endure make him realize that his abduction is more than a simple attack on the throne. Dark forces have been set in motion and Ean only has a short amount of time to decide who is friend and who is foe because his time to stand against one or the other fast approaches.

There is a lot going on in this book and it's easy to feel overwhelmed at first because of all the characters that are introduced so close together. Fortunately, things do eventually slow down and it becomes easy to focus on the story instead of keeping track of an ever-growing cast of characters. The adventures of Trell and Ean are unique from each other, with both of them facing different challenges and befriending different allies. Both characters are equally compelling, although I did find myself drawn more towards Trell because of the mystery surrounding his forgotten past.

I felt like something was missing throughout the first third of the book, but couldn't figure out what it was until the missing element was actually found. While the story is interesting, it seemed a little dry as all the characters were put in place and the settings established. Fortunately, it was lightened up with the addition of a couple of colorful characters that make both Trell's and Ean's lives more interesting, providing a bit of much-needed humor. Trell doesn't know if his new pirate friend, Carian, is a blessing or a curse but he's certain that boredom won't be a problem when the islander enters his life. Prince Ean's cousin, Fynn, provides the comedy in Ean's adventure. The lovable drunk has a passion for wine and a complete inability to keep his mouth shut when he should, but there's a heart of slightly tarnished gold beating within his chest and he'll stick by his cousin through thick and thin. Other characters such as the mysterious Raine, the Healer, Alyneri, and the young truthreader, Tanis, play important parts in the game that Ean and Trell find themselves unwittingly playing, and their insights provide additional depth and detail to a well-developed world.

"Cephrael's Hand" is not a light afternoon read, but it is a well thought-out story with many layers to it. The characters and separate plots are all interconnected in varying ways and the underlying mysteries that tie everything together are well hidden and thoroughly disguised. While I was able to figure out a couple of the mysteries, the main ones are still lurking in the shadows and I'm hoping to uncover more of those secrets in the second book of the "Pattern of Shadow and Light" series.

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Reader Reviews for "Cephrael's Hand, Book 1 of A Pattern of Shadow & Light"

Reviewed by Felix Perry 6/29/2009
Congratulations and best wishes for this and all your literary works in the future. Sounds like a unique and interesting write.


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