I was extremely impressed by Stacey Rourke’s novel Rise of the Sea Witch (Book 1 of the Unfortunate Soul Chronicles), far more than I expected to be. (Read my review here!) So I’ve been looking forward to the sequel, Entombed in Glass, for quite a while now. I’m happy to say that it did not disappoint me.
Raised as a servant in the underwater kingdom of Atlantica, Alastor worked his way up to a regal member of the Royal Guard. Only as a decorated soldier did he stand a chance of winning the hand of the woman he’s loved since childhood … Poseidon’s only daughter, Princess Vanessa. But, when the war against humans rages, dark magics are evoked to give the mermen a fighting chance. Temporarily granted legs, they charge from the sea into a doomed battle.
Doing the bidding of his masters as a trusted pawn,
The claims of his loyalty couldn’t be more wrong.
Waking on land, with bodies all around, Alastor’s lone goal becomes returning to the ocean and the only life he’s ever known. A plan that is quickly diverted when Hades, Lord of the Underworld, appears with a twisted agenda all his own. Cast to a land far from the lapping comforts of home, Alastor’s sole companion is a troubled misfit named Sterling that soon comes to depend on him. Trained to be a hero, how far is Alastor willing to go to return to the woman he loves? And can he live with the sacrifices he's forced to make?
Each day he schemes to break free from their thrall,
and honor a self-made vow … to kill them all.
Entombed isn’t actually a direct follow-up to Rise, though it does feature an important character from the first book—Alastor, the love interest of Vanessa, who went on to become Ursela in Rise. That’s not a spoiler, by the way, it’s revealed in the Book 1 prologue. Alastor was originally a merman, but thanks to a spell gone disastrously wrong (we know all about those, amirite? :D), he’s stuck in human form. He wants to go back to his home and his girlfriend, but a surprising figure from mythical and Disney lore shows up to send him on a quest in a very different land. Fortunately, he has an ally by his side—but not so fortunately, it’s Sterling, the utterly insane, Lewis-Carroll-spouting, fellow ex-merman who showed up briefly a couple of times in Book 1.
I’ll refrain from spoiling all the unexpected characters and settings that show up in Entombed. Suffice it to say that while it appears on the surface to be a Snow White retelling of sorts, there’s a lot more to it than that. I’m not entirely certain of what Rourke’s overall vision for this series is—I believe it will consist of unofficial origin stories for a variety of Disney villains, but perhaps I’m wrong. In any case, Entombed definitely keeps up the standard set by Book 1, and even kicks things up to another level. The universe (multiverse?) of the series expands a great deal, and the characters are left changed forever by the story’s end. Plus, Rourke continues to display her knack for clever retellings, putting all sorts of fun twists on established lore. I think I might have said this about Book 1, but Disney ought to make her work official in some capacity. She knows how to tell a compelling story about villainous and/or anti-heroic characters without sanitizing them and turning them into heroes. Her talents would certainly come in handy on the various live-action reboots of animated classics. Then again, I’d rather not see this series caught up in the Disney machine anyway.
If you’re not caught up on the Unfortunate Soul series, I highly recommend diving in now. It’s a gripping and entertaining fairy-tale fantasy series that will draw you in right from the first page and never let go.