A Valley Full of Praise

Awhile back I received an ARC of Tamara Siler Jones's Valley of the Soul, scheduled for release on October 31, 2006. Before I get to my reaction to this latest edition, let me just say how appropriate that date is for this particular author! A Halloween debut is perfect for this latest addition in the Dubric Byerly series.

Now, I don't want to give anything away because I really want you to go out and buy this book. It's fast-paced, exciting, and a tad bit disturbing. Just the way I like my Dubric books.

Of course, if you know me at all, you'll know my attraction to these books isn't really rooted in the plot or the setting. I'm all about the characters. If I care about them, I'll follow anywhere they lead. In her first book, Tam introduced the cranky but honorable Dubric Byerly, a castle castellan who has been cursed by a goddess his dead wife once served. The goddess punishes him for his crime by forcing him to see the ghosts of the murdered men, women and children he is sworn to protect. These ghosts will only disappear when their murderer is brought to justice.

Dubric isn't taxed with solving this crimes by himself. He does have a considerable staff, one well trained and effecient. While there are many secondary characters, Tam (aka the author) brings into focus Dubric's most trusted assistants: Dien, Lars, and Otlee. These three work on a daily basis with Dubric and soon become as integral to the story as Dubric himself. For the record, Lars is my favorite.

In addition to Dubric's team the reader is also introduced to Jess, who plays a bigger role in each consecutive book. No, I'm not going to say more. If you don't know how or why she plays a bigger role, go buy the book!

In this book, the third in the series, the horrors from Threads of Malace have left their mark. Although a new murder mystery is introduced, Valley does not shy away from the physical and emotional scars each character had suffered at the end of Threads. This book follows the journey of several characters as they struggle to make sense of what has happened to them and their loved ones. As new dangers and dramas evolve the characters adapt or break, snapping under the pressures layered upon them. A mixture of external and internal forces collide in this book, offering a new perspective on these well-developed characters and the world they live in.

I hope you take a chance and try it. Be prepared for some graphic material (no, that doesn't mean explicit sex scenes, people!). And while it's not necessary, I would suggest buying the first two books and reading them before diving into Valley. Half the pleasure is watching the characters develop and grow.