Publication Date: September 16th, 2022
Paperback/Ebook. 438 pages.
About A Fracture in the Qwisdeep:
"There’s no better place in the archipelago for a young Summoner to explore than the Volukho Wildlife Center. It’s an enormous wildlife reservation that houses rare, endangered Jekuas in a jungle called the Qwisdeep. Traveling through the reserve’s lush greenery and glowing flora with magical monsters in his sights is the best experience Balt could have ever dreamed of.
But Alani is growing increasingly frustrated having to remind her friend that this is not a vacation, it’s her pilgrimage, and that they are here for the Church. The whole reason he’s even on this journey is to aid and protect her, but he has always had a one-track mind, and nothing matters more to him than imprinting Jekuas.
While the jungle may be home to countless beautiful creatures, there are also untamed dangers lurking in its shadows, and Balt’s reckless nature may very well get them stranded in the Qwisdeep."
If you haven't read the first book in the Jekua series, On Lavender Tides, you can find my review for it here!
We have yet another winner from Travis M. Riddle! In A Fracture in the Qwisdeep, we pick up right after the events of On Lavender Tides and rejoin Balt and Alani on their journey together to complete Alani's pilgrimage and also allow Balt the opportunity to collect more Jekuas. There are a couple of minor subplots that pop up in this sequel that added a lot of intrigue and depth to the story, and one in particular that I felt really added a level of seriousness that I didn't necessarily expect, but really appreciated (sorry for the vagueness–I aim to avoid any and all spoilers!).
This second installment goes a lot deeper with the world-building and character development, and I felt like we really started to truly get to know both Balt and Alani on a deeper level, as well as learning more about the world itself and its history, different areas, etc. This time, the journey requires Balt and Alani travel through the Volukho Wildlife Center, which encompasses an expansive jungle known as the Qwisdeep that is home to a wide variety of endangered Jekuas, and this is where we spend most of our time in this book. I loved exploring the Qwisdeep and all the different wildlife and nature that it had to offer, and I especially loved meeting a lot of new characters on this journey as well, which I'll discuss more later on.
A Fracture in the Qwisdeep shows more conflict and tension pop up between Balt and Alani, and I appreciated how realistic their occasional bitterness towards one another was and how their arguments flared up and were generally resolved. It was almost refreshing to see them struggle with one another because, let's be honest, who isn't going to start bickering with their sole travel-mate when traveling on foot each and every day? One thing that I thought was interesting about their conflicts, however, was how often they seemed to be a direct result of their own internal conflicts manifesting into bigger issues, or internal struggles causing more irritability to manifest itself in their interactions with one another. Since we get POVs from both Balt and Alani, I really liked seeing how these two friends would perceive the other's irritation and how they also talked to themselves and each other to work on said issues.
I found Balt a little frustrating in this book at times because of his wandering focus from Alani's pilgrimage, but at the same time it was that frustration where you also totally understand why they're acting the way they are because, let's face it, there are some once in a lifetime opportunities to experience. Balt is first and foremost on this journey to assist Alani and escort her to the shrines, but he's also on a bit of his own personal journey to explore the world around him a bit and collect new Jekuas and practice his skills, which is what builds the tensions between the two friends.
I mentioned in my review for On Lavender Tides that I personally relate more to Alani than Balt, and that remains true for this installment. We really see Alani start to question her decision to be a part of the church and whether she really wants to be doing what she is, and I felt like seeing her deal with these doubts about her choices and future really humanized her to an even greater extent and even allowed me to feel more connected to her. I am so curious to where she ends up and what choices she'll make in the future.
One thing I've found to be a strength of Riddle's writing is his ability to write colorful and captivating characters. In addition to Balt and Alani, we meet a huge variety of characters in A Fracture in the Qwisdeep (and reunite with some) and each one was so distinct and full of personality. I particularly loved the brothers Yud and Yi and the sheer amusement and delight they brought me every time they entered a scene. They are the perfect comic relief characters and are delightfully dense, but also much more capable than they are probably given credit for.
I've really loved this series so far because, on the one hand, it feels very casual and slice-of-life adventure, but there's always this ever-present sense of mystery at play for me that lingers in the background. This is especially true whenever some of the more mysterious things about this world are mentioned or something rather unexplained happens–a lot of these aren't mentioned in any particularly dark or mysterious way, but my mind won't ket me wonder just a little bit as some of these very subtle moments (and if they aren't meant to be anything bigger, then I guess I have bad instincts, haha). There's also some action in this adventure, from Balt's Jekua battles with other characters to his needing to summon Jekuas to defend himself and Alani at unexpected moments, so there's definitely never a dull moment. This also allowed the pacing to feel fairly even overall, with some faster-paced moments–often involving Jekuas–and some slower moments such as when were following Balt and Alani on their very, very long walk.
Lastly, I want to mention just how much I've been loving exploring this world! This a very island-based world and thus far I have really enjoyed exploring new cities and environments with Balt and Alani, and really look forward to all of the places we will continue to visit in the future. And don't worry–we still have a plentiful amount of wonderful food descriptions if you've been enjoying those as much as I have in this series. We also get to meet so many more Jekuas in this book and I just enjoy learning about all these different creatures so much. They are all so unique and full of surprises and I just can't get enough of them.
Overall, I've given A Fracture in the Qwisdeep a well-deserved five stars! There's so much more I could say about this book, but I'll try not to get carried away and leave it here. I have found this series to be an amazing comfort read with plenty of action and intrigue to keep you hooked. If you haven't already started the journey with Balt and Alani, you're missing out!
*I received a copy of A Fracture in the Qwisdeep courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.*
Buy the book: Amazon