Tuesday, September 26, 2017


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The Plague Diaries, Ronlyn Domingue, Atria Books, 2017, 417 pp
Sometimes a book, or in this case a trilogy of books, is so personally relevant to me that I am almost overwhelmed with wonder. Then it becomes difficult to write about it in a way that I feel alright about sharing with others. I will do my best here.
The Plague Diaries is the last in Ronlyn Domingue's Keeper of Tales Trilogy, in which she ties together all the aspects found in the first two books and takes her tale to a conclusion so satisfying, so appropriate to what has gone before. I think she must possess many of the gifts she injects into her characters.
The three books can only be categorized as fantasy but they contain an awareness that goes beyond fantasy, that borders on an enlightened spirituality and especially an understanding of womanhood not often found in many of the books I read.
In the first volume, The Mapmaker's War, Domingue builds her worlds around Aoife, the first and only female mapmaker in the Kingdom. While journeying to chart the entire domain she slips through a thin place to find an almost mythical people who have created a way to live in peace. Her discovery unleashes a terrible outcome and she is exiled.
The Chronicle of Secret Riven, second book in the series, takes place 1000 years later and introduces Secret Riven, born of a strange and emotionally distant mother, mute until the age of seven, and possessed of her own gifts. The story follows Secret through her first 18 years as she learns to deal with the joys and horrors of her gifts.
The Plague Diaries opens as Secret comes of age. She has lost her tormented mother but inherited an ancient manuscript written by the mapmaker Aoife. In fact, her mother's attempts to translate it led to her death. Though Secret has suppressed the burdens of her gifts and tries to become a somewhat normal young woman, she is thrown into that other world discovered by Aoife. Along with another young person of indeterminate gender, a person even more gifted than herself, Secret becomes party to a transformation taking place in the Kingdom. The medium of change is the predicted Plague of Silences alluded to in the earlier books.
If you are someone who has pondered the possibilities of peace in the world, of an end to war and violence and greed, the transformation brought about by that plague will be right in your wheelhouse, as they say these days. Very much key to the entire three-part story is the role of women.

I do not read much fantasy. I have never read any of the George R R Martin books for example. The fantasy I have read and enjoyed are books by Ursula Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Philip Pullman, China Mieville, etc. What these authors have in common falls into a genre called Slip Stream, where different worlds run along side by side and where the seemingly unsolvable dilemmas of human existence are viewed with an eye toward solving them. Ronlyn Domingue fits into that domain.

A reader could pick up The Plague Diaries without having read the earlier two volumes of the trilogy and find a full and understandable story. To completely experience the richness and underlying wisdom I recommend reading each one in order. If this is your type of story, you will be rewarded beyond anything you could imagine.

(The Plague Diaries as well as the two earlier books are available by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. I guess I didn't know it was called Slip Stream genre but then maybe I'm just slow about these things. The authors you mention as apart of it are powerful writers ... and this one sounds to be as well.

    1. Well, that is my take on Slip Stream. There is a bit of controversy over how to define it, if you look it up. I think you would love these books!

  2. Ooo, this novel and the entire trilogy itself sounds wonderful and very well written.

    You've written another insightful review that has me wanting to read the entire Keeper of Tales Trilogy.

    Happy reading to you!

    1. I hope you get a chance to read them! I want all my favorite reader friends to do so, except the ones who wouldn't touch fantasy with a ten foot pole. Ha Ha.

  3. Like you, I don't often read fantasy, although I have read George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien and, as it happens, I'm reading a sci fi/fantasy book just now. This series sounds like something I could definitely enjoy. Putting it on my list.

    1. Yay! I have read Tolkien as well. The Lord of the Rings series and saw the movies. Though his fantasy is of a different sort than these. I do hope you enjoy the Keeper of Tales trilogy.

  4. How great to find books that entertain one's ideals! I'm glad you loved this trilogy so much.