Just over three years ago, I reviewed N. J. Simmonds’s debut novel, The Path Keeper. I ended the review by looking forward to the second novel in the trilogy and, finally, here it is. It’s the second of three parts of The indigo Chronicles trilogy, and it was already written. Just as in The Path Keeper, fate made a mockery of the plans, so it’s taken until now to publish Son of Secrets by N. J. Simmonds.
In this book, Zac and Ella are three years on from the cataclysmic climax of The Path Keeper, and they are still traumatised. Ella is back in her beloved Spain, running a converted monastery as a hotel. She calls the hotel Torre de los Angeles, (Tower of Angels). The hotel is in Tarifa, on the Costa de La Luz, and it’s the southernmost tip of Europe From there you can take a 35 minute ferry to Tangier, in north-west Morocco, Africa.
The setting is no coincidence – Tarifa is on the cusp of two continents – Europe and Africa – and the characters in Son of Secrets are on either side of the window between two worlds. The veil is lifted on the back story of Zac and Ella too, so we get to understand more of the powerful thread that connects them.
There are a number of interesting new characters, and we become more familiar with those from the first book too. The most impactful one is Luci, a combination of Devil Woman and Earth Mother. She’s beautiful, she’s powerful, she’s brutal, she’s vengeful – and she’s suffering intolerably as she single-mindedly pursues a quest which seems to be in vain, as time and again, she’s just that bit too late.
The cruelty of timing is a theme that runs through Son of Secrets, for Zac, for Ella, for Luci, and for Josh – the spoiled rich boy who incurs Zac’s wrath in The Path Keeper. Josh has his own secrets, and as we learn of them, he becomes a much more sympathetic character. Simmonds’s natural wit and her capacity for cutting right to the chase as quickly as possible are illustrated admirably in this short but telling thought sequence from Ella:
All she kept thinking was that Josh da Silva was upstairs, in her hotel. And that he was an idiot. An arrogant, handsome, and really sexy idiot – the worst kind. Was her destiny on the top floor of her hotel, acting like an arrogant dick?
We all have to learn lessons in this life, and Josh certainly learns his. So does the other spoiled rich boy, Sebastian, Ella’s step-brother. Even Luci’s edges are softened, but I am sure – indeed I insist – that we haven’t heard the last of her. It’s a testament to Simmonds’s clever characterisation that she knows just how far to take Luci to both astound the readers and also to draw their empathy for Luci’s situation. Who’s to say what anyone would do in her situation, with her resources?
By the end of Son of Secrets, all the main characters are in different places, physically and spiritually. There is no judgement on Simmonds’s part, just clever observation and uncanny understanding of what makes people tick – whatever and whoever they are!
Whereas in The Path Keeper, the main action centred around London and Spain, Son of Secrets takes us on a journey through time and space. We experience Italy and the Netherlands, where Simmonds is now based, although her soul is forever in Spain. She’s also very spiritual, and you’ll see from the Author’s Note at the end that some of the fiction is informed and enhanced by her own metaphysical experiences. Of her latest creation, Simmonds says:
Son of Secrets is more than a story, it’s a tribute to women; the hunted and hurt, the misunderstood and misrepresented. And the ones who love so fiercely they lose themselves along the way. Don’t wait for rescue, because none of us are princesses, we are queens. Act like one.
Son of Secrets is a worthy successor to The Path Keeper. Here, Simmonds has flexed her creative muscles and weaved a multi-layer story. It is fast-paced, original, and satisfying on all levels, whatever your personal beliefs or opinions. I shall end this review in the same way I ended the previous one. I can’t wait to read Book 3, Children of Shadows, which is due for release in 2021.
Image credit: N. J. Simmonds