Monday, December 31, 2012

Blog Tour {Review}—Cephrael's Hand by Melissa McPhail

by Melissa McPhail
Book #1 of A Pattern of Shadow & Light
** ForeWord Reviews 2010 Book of the Year Finalist **
** Winner of Best Fiction, The Written Arts Awards **
** Winner of Best Science Fiction/Fantasy, The Written Arts Awards **

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“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: Bjorn 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 Bjorn knows in the hope 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.

I am inspired and yet don't know where to start. Rarely do I come across a book that fills me with such zeal and I'm convinced the whole world needs to read it. I can count four. After reading Cephrael's Hand—no, after reading Cephrael's Hand and The Dagger of Abendigaeth, the first two books of A Pattern of Shadow & Light series, I can count six. Shocking, since I'm rather picky about Epic Fantasy.

Melissa McPhail created a world unlike any other in fiction but also not unlike our own, where individualism and unity exist all at once; good and evil coincide, are intertwined, and vary in shades; and philosophy, mundane and profound, shape lives. With her debut novel, she captured a world—from its physical base to its ethereal heavens, and everything tangible and intangible between, before known time and (hopefully) not its "after."

But let's start with the stars, one in particular: Cephrael's Hand. The seven-star constellation, named after the Maker's son Cephrael who is responsible for administering the Maker's ultimate justice, is ascribed as the Hand of Fate.
A man may rule his household, And a King govern his land, But Death walks in the thrall of Cephrael’s Hand.
Superstition walks hand-in-hand with these ill-omen stars, but a few people don't believe in it or fate even though the constellation is a blantant sign. Never following a certain course in the sky or establishing a pattern in time, it only appears during the most catastrophic events.

Raine D'Lacourte is one of those men who couldn't care less about the constellation. One of five Vestals and the best known truthreader, he wants hard facts and looks into the past and others' secrets, their motivations and actions, not up at the sky.
His only aim is the truth—Bjorn's truth. Funny thing since the most common exclamation and adage for the ultimate truth is "Raine's truth." Raine needs to find Bjorn, former friend and fifth Vestal, to learn how to save the dying Adept race and Alorin. Deeper still, Raine wants to know why Bjorn betrayed their entire world by causing the deaths of the most gifted and potential Adepts. Maybe then he would find what he won't admit to never having: hope, faith, and higher purpose.

I'll admit that, throughout the book, he seemed hypocritical and unemotional. In a world based on connection and a man who looked for that connection and the ultimate truth in such a world, he was so detached and had so many secrets and ulterior motives I found it hard to like and trust him. But it's this character flaw—an emotional disconnection from people—that endeared me to Raine, in the end. He's so driven to save the world, he forgets about connecting with everyone in it and doesn't yet realize he needs saving himself.

Prince Ean val Lorian, on the other hand, knows he needs saving, is loved by many, and he fears as well as loathes Cephrael's Hand. The damning constellation appeared the nights his brothers were killed and again when, on his return to his parents and kingdom after being away for almost a decade, someone tries to assassinate him. As the sole heir to the coveted Eagle Throne, he must run and go back into hiding, and he wishes that Cephrael's Hand would stop following him. But more than anything he wants to kill the assassin responsible for killing his blood-brother, who was as close to him as his deceased brothers. Along the way, he begins to manifest a seemingly unknown power, making more enemies, never knowing who to trust, and eventually learning to trust himself.

I liked Ean from the start. He's charismatic without being arrogant, stubborn yet good-hearted, a bit naive but not frustratingly so. He has the boy-next-door persona but with a big, unfortunate destiny that he has no control over, looming over him. I didn't find Ean as deep as some of the secondary characters, though, which is my only issue with this book.

Now Trell of Tides ... Neither believing in fate nor willing to test it, along with his unknown past, his intensity and determination belied by his patience and honor, I loved him and his story. He embarks to discover his true name and history. Although he has a destination, it's the journey, the people he crosses and befriends, that holds more meaning than a name.

Or maybe not. Trell of Tides was lost and found on a tide, must follow the physical and proverbial tides, and seems to shift the tides of war with his strategic mind—no doubt, all hinting at his role in the bigger war swelling on the horizon. Unknown to him, he seems to be gathering and cultivating clam-tight relationships that just might help unite the Alorin kingdoms and turn the war between them against the deadlier forces lying in wait—because there are pieces, and there are players, and the players have yet to reveal their faces—or even know they themselves will be players.

The plot twists and steady, massive expansion of the world are two more aspects out of many that left me in awe of Cephrael's Hand. The strands of all three men are intricately connected, yet there's the visceral and cosmic sensation of something much bigger than each, seemingly for each while joining them inextricably.

With Trell's story alone, Melissa McPhail cinched together literary's elusive threads of fate and free will—as discernible yet joined entities. Nothing is coincidence; nothing is insignificant and without consequence, but there is always a choice—for everyone. Good and evil, commoner or high-born, Adept or non-Adept, player or piece. Whether the character believes in happenstance or not matters little. There will be justice, a setting to rights.

Cephrael's Hand is unlike anything I've read, full of universal truths, a wide range of lovable supporting characters both good and evil, and the most believable, thoroughly thought-out world I've stumbled into. Melissa McPhail set a new bar for Epic Fantasy with her debut, in my book.

An ambitious, highly entertaining adventure that is also thought-provoking and discussion-worthy—if there's a series you read next year, make it A Pattern of Shadow & Light, starting with Cephrael's Hand.

A huge thank-you to Novel Publicity and the author,
Melissa McPhail, for the ebook copy. It truly is
an amazing story that I'll be reading again.

** Added after post was published (because it was so heartwarming—and awesome!—that we couldn't not share):
Check out a post with special love for The LUV'NV from the author, Melissa McPhail, about this review. **

Stayed tuned! An excerpt + a contest posts later today. Throughout this week, we'll also feature Melissa McPhail's take on magic, her interview, and our review of book 2, The Dagger of Adendigaeth, with The LUV'NV giving away multiple Kindle copies!

Cephrael Tour Badge


As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Cephrael's Hand eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment—easy to enter; easy to win! The LUV'NV also has a chance to win prizes, which would go to an awesome future V Giveaway!

To win the prizes:
  1. Purchase your copy of Cephrael's Hand for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity.
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event found on Cephrael's Hand blog tour page.

About Cephrael's Hand: 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 unmaking the world from within... And all across the land, magic is dying. Cephrael's Hand is the first novel in the award-winning series A Pattern of Shadow and Light. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Melissa McPhail

Her Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
MELISSA MCPHAIL is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid fantasy reader, and the author of the award-winning Epic Fantasy series A Pattern of Shadow & Light. A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the Fantasy genre because of its inherent philosophical explorations. Her work reflects an understanding of human motivations and adventures into the age-old question of good versus evil as modified by context, viewpoint, and time.

An Atlanta, Georgia native, Ms. McPhail now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters, and two very large cats.


  1. It's hard to find the words to communicate how thrilled I am to know you enjoyed both Cephrael's Hand and the Dagger of Adendigaeth. Thank you so much for your praise, for your amazing and insightful remarks about my characters and their attributes and faults, and for taking the time to craft such a though-provoking review. I am so honored to have you as a reader.

    1. Aw, you're more than welcome! The series is simply amazing so far, and I'm so excited for you. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. What a wonderful review! WOW! I love the photos you chose to represent each of the characters and am thrilled you were excited enough to race out and get book two. Thank you for taking so much time to give Cephrael's Hand a huge feature!


    1. Thank you! Melissa McPhail made it easy to review, though I don't think I can do the book or the series justice. Likewise, finding photos for the characters was so much fun — difficult but fun. The characters are too unique; no one truly fit the bill.

      The blog tour has been real pleasure. Thanks for sponsoring and allowing us to participate.

  3. Fantastic review! I have read both books twice and share this insightful reviewer's conviction that many more people should read this book and experience the magic of a series that truly merits the description "epic fantasy." Keenly anticipating the rest of the series!

    1. Thank you! It's wonderful to see another reader sharing the same zeal as my own. I can't hardly wait for the rest of series, too, and have no doubt it'll be as great as the first two books. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. FANTASTIC REVIEW!!!! I have found you thru I Am A Reader and am adding your blog to my "must read"!

  5. A great book that makes you think.
    I look forward to the rest of the story :