Flight of the Feathered Serpent
By: Sharon Kurack
Allow me to begin with a small disclaimer that I have not read Beyond a Darkened Sky nor A Light Within, which are the first and second books in Dana Alexander’s The Three Keys series. I will be reviewing Flight of the Feathered Serpent as a standalone story. As the final installment of The Three Keys series, Flight of the Feathered Serpent is full of adventure and mystery where psychiatrist, Sara Forrester, and her team of immortals must find the second key of life by uncovering and solving Mayan riddles in the Yucatan (and beyond, really). There are as much historical and cultural elements as there are supernatural and both blend exceptionally well to create a world uniquely its own. Along with the main mission to “save the world from the shadows of Tarsamon,” there is also the complex and intriguing relationship between Sara and Kevin that seems to be a main focus.
The book begins thrusting the reader right into the adventure, setting up the main players. Very similar to the “Game of Thrones” series, there are a lot of characters and if you somehow just jumped into the series with this book it can be extremely confusing to keep track anyone other than Sara, Kevin and Tarsamon. Although immortal, Sara is a character that is surprisingly human, in which she struggles with her role and what people tell (accept) that role in the world to be. As the heroine of the story, much of the weight of the world falls on her shoulders and Alexander does a wonderful job describing her reactions and inner monologues. She struggles, falls, nearly fails and has the hardest time trusting and asking for help. In spite of it all, Sara does what she thinks is right and pushes through whatever test or obstacle is thrown at her coming out with the wisdom of someone who has lived for centuries.
Alexander definitely has a gift for words and her use of imagery gives us more than enough to clearly picture where the characters are. It’s easy to imagine the lush, bright and untamed nature of the forest of the Yucatan and feel the breath-stealing nature of the humidity. So effective are her words that they are able to easily control the emotions in the story from intrigue to absolute terror when the dark angel appears. (I would not want to meet her in a dark alley…or ever.) The feeling of dread and despair is absolutely expressed as Tarsamon’s forces close in on our Light Carrier numerous times. That feeling intensifies with Sara’s inner monologues of “what if I fail” brings us to our proverbial knees wondering if she really is strong enough emotionally to succeed.
Flight of the Feathered Serpent has a very straight forward plot: get the key and save the world at all costs. Perhaps what is most intriguing is the nature of the relationship between Sara and Kevin (and the other paired-off immortals). Every main character has some other worldly skill, with Sara and Kevin being no different. So strong is their bond that they can communicate by reading one another’s thoughts and sensing each other when nearby. It turns out both are reincarnated versions of their past selves, Arwyn and Cerys, respectfully. “Soul mates,” you would think? However, Sara is not that easily trusting and doesn’t accept their bond right away. Kevin also seems to be “all about the mission” to save the world and fraternizing with the Light Carrier would perhaps be not the best idea according to him. Needless to say, both characters are torn between the amazing magnetic connection they have and the stubborn need to be separate. That conflict lasts all of maybe a few chapters when the attraction is too much for either of them to deny, which results in complications. However, said complications are worked out as they are both on the same page of saving the world first. After all, there was that little fine print before the quest started, stating that if Sara fails everyone loses their immortal bonds with their “person.” What a lovely order, the Soltari (and Alliance). It also turns out this order and their mission isn’t as black and white as we are led to believe. As with many humans, there are some in the order that are susceptible to corruption, which (of course) leads to repercussions that our heroes realize near the end of the book.
The relationship between Sara and Kevin perhaps is key to the book itself (maybe even the series). They truly care and love one another and are extremely supportive, even if what the other does isn’t agreeable. They are each other’s strength, Kevin especially for Sara as she draws on her need to protect what they have to push herself forward from the despair and shadows. This is essential and most likely will bring her to ultimately obtain and learn to control the power of all three keys in the next installment. Being an empath, she feels and senses everything, which makes it more difficult not to succumb to the shadows of Tarsamon. Because of her strong bond with Kevin, Sara is able to overcome not only the shadows, but also herself and her own doubts. It is refreshing to see such a supportive relationship in a world that seems lacking.
Flight of the Feathered Serpent will take you on a detailed journey into Mayan myth and the supernatural and is definitely one worth taking. However, in order to better appreciate the characters and their relationships to one another, as well as their actual role in the main story, it would be a good idea to read both Beyond A Darkened Sky and A Light Within. Not everyone will necessarily have the opportunity to read the first two books in the series, which really does make it difficult to “hold on for the ride” that the series promises. Perhaps more of a “recap” of what has happened and who is important to whom in order to update any new reader on what has been happening would be a possible critique. As one of those readers, I felt like I had missed a lot of key elements of the story and simply “fell on” to the ship Sara had been aboard in the beginning. Many times I found it very difficult to get through because of the frustration of keeping track of so much and so many characters, many of which I could not find an attachment to nor could I name at the moment. Such a thing is indeed a shame as Flight of the Feathered Serpent on its own is a decent story and I am sure The Three Keys series is a great adventure as well.
What also made the book difficult to get through was that author Alexander seemed as though she couldn’t decide which point of view to take: first person as Sara or third person omniscient. The first few chapters were distinctively Sara’s point of view, which worked extremely well because it’s her story. A lot of novels will take on first person to tell the story and many fall flat because they just can’t get nearly as much detail as omniscient can give. However, Alexander is able to do this beautifully with her gift of words and descriptions, you almost feel as though you are there with Sara exploring the Yucatan and figuring the riddles out together. There is a fine balance between genuine character reactions and sensory descriptions that most authors have a hard time accomplishing. When Alexander switches to third person after a few chapters, it took me a few moments to realize that Sara was no longer talking. I was confused and had to reread a paragraph to figure out what was going on, which interrupted the flow of the story. At one point in the book, the point-of-view switches from first to third person in the middle of a chapter, which can be extremely confusing and frustrating for a reader.
Don’t get me wrong, Alexander has amazing writing skills and both styles of first and third person work for her. However, perhaps similar to the “Game of Thrones” series, naming chapters according to whose point of view might help to transition if a unique style is what she is after. Or, either go with simply first person with the whole story or third person; It is challenging to mix the two successfully.
If you’re looking for a supernatural story mixed with Mayan mythology, then Flight of the Feathered Serpent is a wonderful addition to your collection. Alexander’s eye for detail along with the intricate Mayan myth and riddles included really make for a worthwhile adventure. The action is fast-paced and evokes an array of emotions. The only disclaimer would be that should you choose to read this selection, consider reading the first two installments Beyond A Darkened Sky and A Light Within to truly appreciate the author’s work as well as the main story itself.