Storyline: Since I’ve already used the “right up my alley” pun already, I’m just going to be blunt and say: Ursula’s Quest was wonderful. Tracey Alley has picked where she left off with Erich’s Plea and continued with a new, exciting story that is hard to put down and leaves the reader clamoring for more!
Ursula is plagued with dreams of her father’s voice telling her that she must find the missing key to save the kingdoms. She must leave the safety of the Monks of the Black Lotus and strike out across the desert lands of Kemet to reach the Temple of Life and she must do so even at the risk of her unborn child.
All the while, Slade and his companions are fighting their way across the wilds to find his father and try to stop the evil witch from winning a war that will surely end their world as they know it.
Grammar/Spelling: I think another beta-read would be a great idea. And it might help with the comma conundrum of which there is a lack of. (There is a lack of commas, not the conundrums. There are plenty of challenges…the key, the Dark One, the upcoming war… A LOT of conundrums abound in the story…)
Character Development: As usual, Ms. Alley’s characters are both well-defined and quite captivating. With Ursula’s Quest, we really get to dive into Slade’s sister side of the story and learn how she came to be part of the Black Lotus. Like Slade, she wants nothing more than to find her father and save the kingdom from the evil witch, Shallendara’s, plan to conquer the kingdom and let chaos reign. She worries that her unborn child will keep her from making the ultimate and difficult decision of choosing to fight and risking the baby or fighting and losing everything that is important to her.
Writing Style: The writing style is fluid and easy to follow. Again, Ms. Alley has incorporated her knowledge of ancient religions into the history and beliefs of her fantasy realm. Ursula and her traveling companion, Ming, travel to the Temple of Life and find that they must make it through a series of tests in order to reach their goal: the missing key. This is very closely related to the path that the ancient Egyptians’ souls traveled to Heaven. Since I love all things Egyptian, (except maybe all that heat – c’mon! Couldn’t they live in a more a temperate climate? Maybe even closer so I wouldn’t have to travel so far to see the pyramids?!) I really enjoyed those details and loved the use of the Reverse Confession.
Continuity: No issues with continuity.
Overall Rating: 4+
Ursula’s Quest written by the talented and charming, Tracey Alley is fantasy at some of its best! Ms. Alley keeps you interested without being too heavy handed with the fantasy aspect that some novels rely heavily upon. This journey is not only about elves, trolls and magic, it is about love and the recognition that there is something stronger than evil in the world: faith.
I anticipate that the rest of Ms. Alley’s series will be as fresh and exciting as the first two books have been. I would recommend this story to all ages and especially anyone who is just starting out in the fantasy genre. Good job, Trace!
Now, an interview with Tares, the Minotaur from Tracey Alley’s Witchcraft Series:
(Celia’s Note: This was my first interview with a Minotaur up close and personal and I must say that I was suitably impressed with Tracey’s ability to capture this fellow in all his wonderful glory. I’d hate to have him mad at me, let me tell ya!)
Celia: You are the first Minotaur ever to join the ranks of the Knighthood of Ilmater and, if you’ll pardon my saying so, yours is a race better known for its’ savagery rather than sacrifice.
Tares: I do not mind your question, [said with a slow smile], it is true that my people are more known for their skills as warriors than for their willingness to sacrifice for others but you must also remember that the minotaur people are a very honourable race. I was brought up to believe in honour and that dishonouring oneself or one’s tribe was the greatest sin one could commit. After I left the Isles of Dread to make my way in the world and met priests of Ilmater they seemed to me to be perfectly compatible with all that I had been taught. I feel honoured and humbled to be a member of Ilmater’s Knighthood, although I am, as yet, still only a warrior priest.
Celia: Were you surprised when Lord Michael Strong teamed you with Lara, a former thief and assassin in your task to find and free Sir Patrick san Decroix?
Tares: I was a little surprised and, in truth, at first found the pairing to be… difficult. Lara is, or I should say was, very efficient at her profession. Yet she is also extremely irreverent and it is difficult to get her to take things seriously. I found that something of a trial, yet Ilmater tests us all and I looked upon it as such.
Celia: After your escape from the prison in Zeaburg you readily joined Slade in his quest to find High King Erich rather than return with Trunk to Lord Michael, why was that?
Tares: It was my belief that following Slade was the will of Ilmater. The Knighthood have always served the Royal Family of Vestland. I could do little by returning but perhaps achieve much by continuing to serve the former Crown Prince.
Celia: Yet your companions, for the most part, were highly the ideal companions for a warrior priest of Ilmater. How did you reconcile yourself to following orders from someone like Nikolai for example?
Tares: Ilmater moves in mysterious ways and although I would not say so directly to the mage I believe that Ilmater has marked out Nikolai as one of His own. It was extremely difficult for me to follow someone who had dedicated themselves and their lives to a deity of blood and evil yet in time I saw a different side to Nikolai, a side that the necromancer may not even be aware of himself. Apart from which Ilmater calls upon all of us to make sacrifices for Him, I was merely following the tenants of the Knighthood that I believe in with all my heart.
Celia: One final question. Do you believe that the Knights of Ilmater will be able to win the war against the evil sorceress Shallendara?
Tares: Firstly you must understand that we fight a war on two fronts. We must not only defeat the war of conquest that Shallendara incited among Prince Ulrich and The Dark One but we must also stop the witch from her plans to open the portal to the gods. If she should succeed then all of Kaynos will be destroyed. This is a very difficult time for all of us, we still do not know the whereabouts of High King Erich, the Knights must fight a deadly war against a type of magic for which we still have no defence and Shallendara must be stopped from opening the portal. I have not been given any insight from Ilmater as to how the war will proceed. It is my hope and my prayer that we will succeed on all fronts and that the loss of life will be minimal but I have felt the effects of witchcraft and know how deadly it truly is. *sigh*