Book Reviews

Racing With the Serpent

You can’t ignore destiny when it breaks down your barriers, even if it means defeating a god. Eya has found safety among friends, but she knows it’s only temporary. The battle is far from over, and she has a duty to protect Telverin from the power-hungry. With true allies by her side and unique abilities, it’s only a matter of time before she wins back her home and rescues the goddess winds. Yet, Eya’s recklessness might mean her ruin. Can she learn to control her impulses, the way she’s learning to control the elements? Racing with the Serpent is the third and last book of The Telverin Trilogy, a fantasy war story that takes place between several countries in the world of Telverin.

While I don’t generally comment on covers in my reviews (it’s what’s on the inside that counts), I’m going to make a point of it this time. The third part of A.R.K. Horton’s The Telverin Trilogy, following Struggling With the Current and Flirting With the Tempest (click those links for my thoughts about them) features a cover where the protagonist of these stories, Eya, has evolved: no longer the passive girl in Struggling With the Current, and knowing more about herself than Flirting With the Tempest, the cover to Racing With the Serpent offers a more mature, darker vision of Eya. This sits perfectly with the themes of the novel and Eya’s growth as a character throughout this trilogy.

As you may be aware, the first two books I reviewed for this site were the first two volumes of The Telverin Trilogy, way back in March. In my review of Flirting With the Tempest, I mentioned I was looking forward to this final chapter, and four months later, I’m pleased to offer up my thoughts for you all in this advance review. Flirting With the Tempest will be available from 31 July, 2021.

At 372 pages (or an estimated 285 swipes on Kindle/eBoook), Racing With the Serpent is the longest book in the trilogy. This length feels entirely appropriate for the story being told; not once did Horton’s story drag: the pacing starts relatively slowly, getting the reader up to speed with the happenings since we last saw Eya and her supporting cast of characters. Following this, the pacing slowly intensifies, before building to a mighty crescendo that feels one hundred percent earned, thanks to all that has happened before it.

If you were to pick Racing With the Serpent up cold, there would be no doubt in your mind that this is a continuation of an ongoing story, and you’re missing quite an amount of information. There is a lot of backstory you would be without, as a lot has evidently come before. While the author does an admirable job of feeding information to the reader about what has come in the first two books, it is by absolutely no means a substitute for reading them. The other benefit to this approach is that the text serves as a reminder for those who have read the first two books, but might be fuzzy on the details. I would wholeheartedly recommend reading the earlier books first, however. Not only will this fill in any missing details, they are thoroughly enjoyable reads in their own right.

If you have read the reviews for the previous entries (and if not, I handily included links to them above, so go read them), you would be aware of how I described these books as coming of age tales. That assessment holds true for Racing With the Serpent, however the themes in this final entry are more mature, given Eya’s growth in the earlier ones, and the situation throughout. As I like to keep these reviews as spoiler-free as possible, I won’t elaborate on this any further.

With the escalating war across Telverin, the increasing odds stacked against our hero and her allies, and the increased maturity with Racing With the Serpent’s themes, it is darker than its predecessors. While far from bleak, it is a story that deals with loss as well as villains who are determined to win by any means necessary. And those means often aren’t very nice.

As with the first two entries, the author has written the characters brilliantly. Horton has added depth to them, and this is obviously aided by the first two books in the trilogy already delving deeper into them. Where the second book introduced new characters throughout it, the cast in Racing With the Serpent is largely familiar. There are some new additions, and these characters serve the story and its emotional impact. One particular character that readers of the first two books will be familiar with is rounded out nicely, with their story being a through line of the book that makes the reader really care about them—moreso than previously.

One word I haven’t used in this review yet is “fantasy.” The cover makes it absolutely clear that the novel is a fantasy, and if there was any doubt left in your mind, the blurb mentions this, too. I’ll say it as well: this book is a fantasy. While much of the focus in The Telverin Trilogy is on its characters, their emotions, and Eya coming to terms with who she is, they are all very much fantasy stories. The fantasy elements in Racing With the Serpent are handled well throughout, and particularly brilliantly when the book reaches the third act. The magic used in this third act is, well, magical, which the author uses to create a sense of wonder.

The prose in Racing With the Serpent is also strong. It maintains the style of the first two books, which is friendly and approachable, without bogging the reader down in too many details. It conveys everything the reader needs to know. I will say that this entry has evolved from the first two, continuing from the improvement of the second one.

As I finished the book (in three easy sittings), despite it being the last part of the Telverin trilogy, it left me wondering (and hoping) about whether we will see more books continuing Eya’s story. Not necessarily a direct continuation from these books, but other areas of the world, or Eya’s continued adventures following the resolution. But if not, I look forward to seeing what A.R.K. Horton does next. I highly recommend that you read Racing With the Serpent, and if you do, strongly suggest that you also pick up Struggling With the Current and Flirting With the Tempest.

Favourite Passage

Eya called on another lightning strike, this time aiming it for the top ranking officer still on his horse. He didn’t burn or singe. He popped. Pieces of his flesh exploded onto the Kandumes surrounding him.

Racing With the Serpent, Chapter 2

Racing With the Serpent was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.

Racing With the Serpent will available in both physical and eBook forms from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon) from 31 July, 2021. Signed copies will be available from the author’s website.

Note: I do not post scores for reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

  • AmazonTo be posted upon release
  • Goodreads

You can follow A.R.K. Horton online, via:

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