The Chronicle of Secret Riven (Keeper of Tales Trilogy #2)

The Chronicle of Secret Riven (Keeper of Tales Trilogy #2)

3.0 1
by Ronlyn Domingue

An uncanny child born to brilliant parents, befriended by a prince, mentored by a wise woman, pursued by a powerful man, Secret Riven has no idea what destiny will demand of her or the courage she must have to confront it in the breathtakingly epic, genre-spanning sequel to The Mapmaker’s War.

To see is a trick of the mind, but to believe is a


An uncanny child born to brilliant parents, befriended by a prince, mentored by a wise woman, pursued by a powerful man, Secret Riven has no idea what destiny will demand of her or the courage she must have to confront it in the breathtakingly epic, genre-spanning sequel to The Mapmaker’s War.

To see is a trick of the mind, but to believe is a trick of the heart.

One thousand years after a great conflict known as The Mapmaker’s War, a daughter is born to an ambitious historian and a gifted translator. Secret Riven doesn’t speak until her seventh year but can mysteriously communicate with plants and animals. Unsettled by visions and dreams since childhood, she tries to hide her strangeness, especially from her mercurial father and cold mother. When her knowledge of an esoteric symbol brings unwelcome attention, gentle, watchful Secret finds acceptance from Prince Nikolas, her best friend, and Old Woman, who lives in the distant woods.

When Secret is twelve, her mother, Zavet, receives an arcane manuscript to translate from an anonymous owner. Zavet begins to suffer nightmares and withdraws into herself. Secret sickens with a fever and awakens able to speak an ancient language, discovering that her mother is fluent as well. Suddenly, Zavet dies. The manuscript is missing, but a cipher has been left for Secret to find. Soon, Secret will have a choice to make: confront a destiny tied to an ancient past or deny it, never to know its whole truth.

A spellbinding story, rich with vivid characters and set in a fascinating world, The Chronicle of Secret Riven explores the tension between love and hate, trust and betrayal, fate and free will.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This installment picks up 1,000 years after the events depicted in The Mapmaker’s War, and it bears little obvious connection to its predecessor. In a sedate, leisurely manner, Domingue spins out the childhood and adolescence of the titular Secret Riven, daughter of a historian and a translator. Secret spends much of her early years mute but always listening, able to understand plants and animals. As she matures, she finds her words, excels in school, and makes friends with the dashing Prince Nikolas. One mystery remains: the origins of a manuscript given to Secret’s mother for translation, and the reasons for its later disappearance. Lush descriptions and a mythic tone don’t disguise this literary fantasy’s lack of action, limited resolution, and paucity of concrete answers. It reveals its purpose reluctantly; in Secret’s world, anything can happen, but little actually does. Agent: Jillian Manus, Manus & Associates Literary Agency. (May)
“Domingue deftly explores themes of motherhood, gender equality, and the powerful ties that bind us to our roots, while at the same time mesmerizing the reader with the story of a mythical land struggling to protect itself from the greed and jealousy of the slowly encroaching outside world.”
Maria Tatar
“Mysterious manuscripts, arcane languages, and sinister silences animate the wonderfully inventive realm of Secret Riven, a character so powerful that we are both startled and enchanted as we tumble headlong into her world.”
Carolyn Turgeon
“What a stunning, original book this is—restrained and sensual, cerebral and lush, always blazingly intelligent, epic and expansive, yet filled with the most precisely and lovingly observed details. This is one of the best books I've read in years. Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's best work and yet wholly its own, The Mapmaker’s War evokes one of its heroine’s fantastic, world-defining maps: giving lines to human landscapes as old as myth, seemingly for the first time. You won’t be able to put this book down, and it will take you somewhere you've never been, leaving you transformed.”
Deborah Harkness
“Journey to the heart of a fairy-tale land with doomed queens, epic quests, and enemy kingdoms in The Mapmaker’s War. Ronlyn Domingue’s jewel of a book has a big canvas, memorable characters, and intimate storytelling. You will be swept away by this otherworldly tale that charts the all-too-human territory between heartbreak and hope.”
M.J. Rose
The Mapmaker's War is an extraordinary tale of a woman's courage in an ancient Utopian world. Domingue has taken on the herculean task of inventing a new legend, and the result is a remarkable novel at once absorbing and heart wrenching, but above all mesmerizing!”
Ava Leavell Haymon
The Mapmaker's War evokes not mere fantasy, but the real magic I found as a child, reading by flashlight under a blanket. As then, the story takes me by the hand to exotic lands and noble people. As it proceeds, I'm reminded of myself as a teen-age girl, chafing under the restrictions of an established order. Further on, I'm lead into adulthood. The story keeps me under its spell, but it fills with adult contradictions, with experiences of betrayal and regret, with sex and self-knowledge, with the reality of evil, and all the while, yes, the same old magic. But the magic has matured, now, redeemed by love and wisdom.”
River Jordan
“With an original voice, Ronlyn Domingue takes us into a land of strange truths and raw beauty. Writing against contemporary norms, she dares to forge into new territory even as she takes us into an ancient world. To the place of a red dragon and warm desire. A world full of love, and hate, and recompense. Domingue has a rare eye for the honest word and a heart willing to travel where the story leads. The Mapmaker’s War offers us the chance to reflect on both our sins and saving graces and to believe in the possibility of a future that holds kindness and understanding as key. This novel is a celebration of brave women and men, of expansive vision, and ultimately, of a humanity not easily denied.”
Susan Henderson
The Chronicle of Secret Riven is an extraordinary mix of a fresh voice and an Old World sensibility. With mesmerizing language, Ronlyn Domingue spins a tale of wonder, danger, and magic, taking the reader to a faraway world that helps us to see our own with more clarity. This is a book that reminds us of the power of silence, of paying attention, of intuition, and of protecting the most vulnerable among us.”
Amy Shearn
The Chronicle of Secret Riven hypnotizes with the cadence of a fairy tale and the sweeping scope of an epic. I longed to linger in this world of eloquent animals, hidden forests, and magical libraries, and felt nearly heartbroken to turn the last page. Ronlyn Domingue, like her unforgettable heroine Secret Riven, has a knack for making us all see the wonder in what appears to be ordinary.”
Sean Beaudoin
“A rare blend of historical mysticism and elaborately imagined fantasy…. This is a fantastically satisfying novel in which a character can plausibly converse with insects and foliage, while always maintaining a strict internal logic. I wish I could buy real estate in Domingue’s world.”
Signe Pike
“An epic fairy tale for a new age; Ronlyn Domingue has created a mythos all her own. The Chronicle of Secret Riven deftly braids the story of love, loss, magic, myth, and ancestry together into a hauntingly beautiful tale. The book also possesses a secret itself. If you know how to look for it, if you know how to listen, you’ll risk being inspired by the powerful message that glimmers beyond the pages of this shimmering story.”
Booklist on The Mapmaker's War
“Domingue deftly explores themes of motherhood, gender equality, and the powerful ties that bind us to our roots, while at the same time mesmerizing the reader with the story of a mythical land struggling to protect itself from the greed and jealousy of the slowly encroaching outside world.”
“Domingue deftly explores themes of motherhood, gender equality, and the powerful ties that bind us to our roots, while at the same time mesmerizing the reader with the story of a mythical land struggling to protect itself from the greed and jealousy of the slowly encroaching outside world.”
Kirkus Reviews
Deep within a realm of fantasy, a silent girl keeps a secret even she doesn't know the measure of. This sequel to Domingue's The Mapmaker's War (2013) picks up the tale of a strange kingdom generations after Aoife's story ended. The characters in Domingue's Keeper of Tales trilogy are tenuously threaded together not by blood but by unique storytelling talents. In this tale, Evensong Riven, known as Secret, is born to Zavet, a cold and enigmatic mother, who translates manuscripts written in languages all but forgotten. Secret's father, Bren, a respected historian, uses his skill in telling the tales of the past to help land speculators acquire properties. After her beloved father leaves for work each day, Secret plays alone, listening to Zavet muttering over her work. Mute and painfully lonely, Secret discovers that she can communicate with trees and squirrels; all of nature seems to have stories and visions to share with her. Although her classmates taunt her, Secret finds a few friends, including Auntie, who holds her hand and takes her to children's shows; Prince Nikolas, who shares some of her adventures; and Old Woman, who cautions Secret that she will have to make a difficult choice someday. When Secret is 12, her mother is asked to translate a manuscript that seems dangerous. Suddenly, Secret falls ill with a fever, awakening to discover that she does, indeed, have a secret of her own. After her mother's unexpected death, the mysterious manuscript disappears, and the powerful, delightfully named magnate Fewmany takes a peculiar interest in her. Domingue lushly layers Secret's hopes, dreams and visions. Yet the pace is terribly slow, perhaps in an attempt to match the bewildered Secret's struggle to make sense of her world. Secret Riven's tale will charm patient lovers of fantasy but likely frustrate readers looking for a thrilling adventure.

Product Details

Atria Books
Publication date:
Keeper of Tales Trilogy Series , #2
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.50(d)

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Read an Excerpt

The Chronicle of the Secret Riven


    – I –

    The Babe Born Evensong Riven

    MOMENTS AFTER HER BIRTH, three birds swept into the room through an open window. The pigeon, the dove, and the sparrow circled the newborn three times, widdershins, lit upon the wooden sill, and settled their feathers. They turned to one another in conference, or so it seemed to the baby’s father, who saw their heads bob and heard them coo and chirp. He had respect for the uncanny and, believing the birds’ council to be that indeed, watched them come to their enigmatic conclusion.

    The meeting adjourned. The sparrow fluttered toward the infant, snatched a wispy hair from her head, and guided the dove and the pigeon into the autumn twilight.

    Her father would one day tell her this, and about how he walked to the window to decide what to name her. He hadn’t expected the dark tiny creature she turned out to be. She was third born but an only child. Two brothers, born blue, had preceded her. Her father looked to the sky at the crescent moon and the bright star rising at its side. She was named Evensong, for the time of her birth, but she would be called Eve, then become Secret soon enough.

    She was an odd little thing with black hair, tawny skin, and eyes the colors of night and day. Except for the occasional cry or laugh, she would be mute until her seventh year, skilled with only one mother tongue until her fourteenth. From Secret’s first breaths, the girl was hushed with a silencing hiss, a sound of menace, not comfort, by her own mother.

    The child became a watchful being.

    Secret remembered the room where she spent the days of her first three years. The door to the room was always closed, and she was penned off by a guard of wooden slats with a soft pallet and toys on the floor. She occupied herself with colorful blocks, leather balls filled with sawdust, and dolls stuffed with wool. Secret took pleasure in the crawling things in her space. She wiped her hand through webs to watch the spiders build again. Beetles danced on their backs if knocked off their feet. Ants marched in lines to carry off crumbs she left for them. She was glad to have the insects to amuse her because they helped her feel less lonely.

    Out of reach, in a corner of the same room where the windows faced east and south, sat her mother. There, Zavet bent over manuscripts and books, often muttering and burbling, caught in a rushing stream of words.

    Madness? No.

    Zavet was gifted with the languages of the entire known and ancient worlds. She did not, and could not, explain the mystery of her many tongues. Whatever language she heard or read, she grasped instantly, as if she remembered rather than learned it. She spoke all of them like a native without the accent of her own. The words burbled out of her as if from a deep, hidden spring. She dammed them with her work as a translator, but the flood could only be slowed to a trickle.

    Now and again, this strangeness happened in front of other people. With Secret comfortable in a little wagon, Zavet went to market or for afternoon walks, and sometimes Zavet would mutter aloud softly. Some people seemed to try to ignore her, but Secret observed the suspicious glances from others. She saw them lean close, eyes narrow, fingers pointing. She rarely heard what they said, but she could sense their scrutiny. This is how she knew her mother was not quite right, and perhaps neither was she. Zavet and Secret did not look like their neighbors and, between her mother’s muttering and her silence, did not sound like them either. Still, the other women were polite toward Zavet, and she was polite but cool toward them, and they allowed their children to play within view as they filled their baskets and remarked about the weather.

    As for Secret’s father, Bren was often gone while it was light but home when it was dark. Now and then, Bren went away for long periods of time but always came back. When he returned, he brought presents. Secret remembered a set of thick cards marked with colors, shapes, images, and symbols. Glad for the attention, she sat on his lap as he named them. She learned quickly and delighted him with the deft accuracy of her pointing finger when he asked her to identify the images for the words he spoke.

    Her mother was always surrounded by books, but her father was the one who filled her with stories. Zavet taught her respect for the texts, which Secret was allowed to look at but not touch. What Bren gave her she was allowed to handle, with care. She turned the pages and, with his voice, he guided her into other worlds, slowly reading with his finger under the symbols that became words, and the words became images. Many of the books had illustrations, but they couldn’t compare to what emerged in her mind as she listened.

    Although she was very young, Secret discovered she, too, could divine the symbols again and conjure what they told. What marvelous tales of wonder, adventure, and possibility! Her father found her concentration unusual and tested to see whether she understood what she read on her own. He gave her books he had never read to her. He asked her questions to answer yes or no, which she did with nods and shakes of her dark head. My mute little prodigy, he called her.

    Secret knew her mother possessed this magic as well, but Zavet was parsimonious with its use in regard to her daughter. Some of the books her father brought he couldn’t read and promised that her mother would. She rarely did. With those, Secret sat in silence—such a good, obedient child was she—and studied the mysterious marks on the pages. She wondered what they meant, what tales they told.

    One ordinary day, Zavet gave her coloring sticks and used paper with which to draw. The little girl sat on the floor and marked the page with all manner of symbols like ones she had seen. As she wrote the unintelligible words, Secret’s heart pounded. Her tiny hand gripped the coloring stick as her head flooded with images. There, within her, was a story she could not yet tell. One she must reveal herself. All at once, she felt its burden, its danger, and its redemption.

    Secret cried out with wonder and dread, unable to understand what had opened in her but fully able to feel its power.

    From the sunny corner, her mother hissed long and harsh. The noise startled the girl, and she spilled a half-empty cup of water with a jolt of her hand. Her mother hissed again, louder. The girl felt a tight knot at her navel loosen into a heavy force, which spread through her belly and chest. She held her breath, kept her glare to the ground, and pushed the hot feeling deep into her body, coiling it back to where it lived. Secret struck the page with thick black marks, but quietly, quietly.

    “This spill is but an accident, yes, little scourge,” Zavet said under her breath as she wiped the floor clean.

  • Meet the Author

    Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Chronicle of Secret Riven, The Mapmaker’s War, and The Mercy of Thin Air, which was published in ten languages. Her essays and short stories have appeared in several print and online publications, including New England Review, Shambhala Sun, and The Nervous Breakdown. Connect with her on, Facebook, and Twitter.

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    The Chronicle of Secret Riven: A Novel 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
    literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
    A thousand years after the Mapmaker’s war (described in a previous novel by this same author), Secret Riven is born to a historian father and a mother who is able to translate multiple languages.  Secret cannot speak for years, a lack that seems to strengthen her talent for telepathically communicating with plants and animals.  Her contact with nature is limited at first until her father receives a plush job that enables them to move to a town bordering on multiple forests and groves, filled with animals that are totally unthreatened by Secret.  In fact their love for each other as well as respect is obvious on their every meeting. During these later years her mother’s emotional attacks increase.  They seem somehow to be related to her own mother, Zavet, but nothing is ever described to clarify what these attacks are, why they occur and how she can be helped since Secret immediately hides as soon as these horrible episodes occur and her father is almost completely unaware of their occurrence.   Secret does have two very special friends, one Prince Nicholas, the son of the kingdom’s ruler and the other an old woman who lives in the forest.  Nicholas accepts Secret exactly as she is, even after she develops a sickness with an extremely high fever and awakens to discover she can translate an old, almost unknown, language.  At the same time, her mother dies and Secret believes the two events of illness and death are connected.  The old woman in the forest is there for Secret but all of a sudden Secret seems to be reluctant to share all of her thoughts and feelings with her former friend. The rest of the novel concerns an attempt by a powerful man to “use” Secret’s skills for a secret purpose.  The novel is rather vague from this point on, but Secret has several fearful experiences that increase her suspicion that an evil battle is nearing, one she can’t pinpoint but feels in every fiber of her sensitive being! The Chronicle of Secret Riven…is an interesting read but is rather slow-moving and never seems to provide enough clues to keep the reader’s interest.  The development of her special skills is what holds the reader’s attention.  More clues and action are needed and hopefully will be provided in the sequel to this novel.