The Archive by Dan Fitzgerald

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Publisher: Shadow Spark Publishing

Publish Date: 4 December 2020

Page Count: 274 pages

The Archive is the flawless sequel to Hollow Road and the penultimate book in Dan Fitzgerald’s The Maer Cycle. It continues the story immediately after the rediscovery of the Maer, who are now faced with the challenge of re-establishing their society in a world dominated by humans.

There are whispers of the Archive, a library built by the Ancient Maer in order to save their culture and history from being lost in the war with humanity. The leaders of Castle Maer believe that ancient documents contained in the Archive may be the key to long-lasting peace, so they organise a quest to find the long-lost facility. But there are also rumours of dark magic contained within the Archive that, in the wrong hands, could trigger an unwinnable war, and the final downfall of the Maer.

In this book, Fitzgerald has ramped up the action and scope of his story without sacrificing any of the charm or engaging characterisation I loved so much in Hollow Road. While the pacing and Fitzgerald’s warm, ‘low fantasy’ writing style is pleasantly familiar, the stakes are raised much higher in the lead up to exciting scenes in the final chapters.

I particularly enjoyed learning more about the history of the Maer and their legacy, and the introduction of the Free Maer to the story. I’d absolutely read about the Ancient Maer if Fitzgerald ever writes a spin-off.

The cast of characters has been significantly expanded, with more of the story told from the Maer perspective. Carl, Sinnie and Finn are still important to the plot, but they share the stage equally with Maer both familiar and new. I loved every single character, even the slightly bullheaded Karul, and I think this is a real strength in the author’s writing.

Fitzgerald also focuses more on the application of magic and Finn’s abilities, part of the reason why The Archive feels like a slightly different approach to fantasy than the first book, though it still feels like a natural progression of the story. The remainder of said reason I can’t tell you because spoilers.

I was a little surprised by the sexy scenes throughout the book since they’re not something I come across often in the novels I read. But they are intimate and sincere rather than gratuitously erotic, and I do think they help create intimacy between the characters and the reader. Sex scenes also allow Fitzgerald to further explore Maer society, as well as his gender and sexually diverse characters, without relying heavily on exposition or stereotypes.

The Maer Cycle series so far has been absolute quality writing, and Fitzgerald has found a sweet spot writing about the familiar in a new way. It’s a rare example of classic fantasy written for a more diverse audience, without requiring a diferrent label. It is simply fantasy, done better, which is no small feat.

I’m worried that people will start thinking I slap a 5-star review on every book I read, but I honestly can’t think of anything I didn’t enjoy about this story. I can’t wait to check out the final instalment in the series!

Trigger warnings:

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