The Book of Never Vol 1 – 3: A stranger on a mysterious quest…

The Book of Never Vol 1 – 3 by Ashley CapesThe Book of Never Vol 1 – 3 by Ashley CapesThe Book of Never Volumes 1 – 3 by Ashley Capes

Never is a man with a magical gift and a history that’s as mysterious as his name. Hunted by the soldiers of ruthless Commander Harstas, Never is known for having blood with an usual trait: every time it mingles with that of another person (usually in combat situations), he takes on their memories, personality, and — at the start of this story — any illnesses they might carry.

Now struck with a strange fever that he can’t seem to break, Never’s ongoing quest to find answers to his condition and his past is endangered by the vulnerable state he finds himself in.

Teaming up with some companions that promise a cure (but who may or may not be trustworthy) the story is divided into five distinct parts (or novellas) which can be purchased separately or in collected editions. Since I’ve read the first three, “The Amber isle”, “A Forest of Eyes”, and “River God”, I’ll cover those.

Each of Ashley Capes’ novellas is based in a location that Never searches in his quest for answers, the first three being: the Amber Isle, a deserted island filled with ancient traps and contraptions; the White Wood, which is teeming with both spirits and enemy soldiers; and the River Hanik, where all sorts of creatures lurk beneath the waters.

Wherever he goes, Never is acutely aware of his missing brother Snow, who shares the same blood-curse as he, but has a profoundly different outlook on what it means and how to use it.

Filled with action and mystery, The Book of Never is notable for its sympathetic protagonist who struggles throughout with his magical gift/curse. The fantasy tropes of a) mysterious pasts and b) internal power that can barely be controlled are clichés by this point, but they’re made fresh with Never, whose maturity and struggle bring new insights and experiences to what might seem a fairly predictable conundrum. You really connect with his plight and his need for answers, and I appreciated his conscientiousness when it came to how to best use his ability and the price it costs both him and the people around him.

Because the overarching story is split into smaller novellas, The Book of Never is a quick read which moves along at a swift pace. Perhaps some of the supporting characters (especially the villains) could have been fleshed out a little more, but Never himself is interesting enough to carry his own story, and the creativity of the places he visits provide great settings for his adventures.

Published in 2017. The Book of Never (1-3) brings together Never’s first three adventures as he searches for the truth behind his mysterious heritage and the curse on his blood. The Amber Isle: Roguish Never is on a quest to lift a curse on his blood and to learn his true name; but upon joining a group of treasure-hunters he soon finds himself unearthing world-altering secrets that have long lain dormant within the mysterious Amber Isle. A Forest of Eyes: Poisoned and furious, Never must add a desperate quest for a cure to his existing search for truth. His path takes him deep into the White Wood where he faces vengeful spirits, giant leeches and Commander Harstas himself, whose lust for revenge is an ever-present threat. River God: Armed with disturbing news about Snow, his unpredictable brother, Never picks up a cold trail on the rivers of Hanik. There he must face both new dangers and demons from his past, all the while doing his best to avoid becoming entangled in a brewing civil war.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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