Rise of the Coven by E.E. Holmes is Book VIII in the Gateway Trackers, and it marked a return of the popular paranormal fantasy series.
I’m not shy when I say E.E. Holmes’ Gateway Trilogy and Gateway Trackers series were direct influences on my own work, specifically my alternate history fantasy series, the Terrian Chronicles. That said, you could guess that I was ecstatic to say the least when Holmes announced Rise of the Coven marked the series’ first book in three years. And it did not disappoint.
This book contains most of your favorite characters from past installments, with a few exceptions. However, it makes up for it with one character who I found ultra interesting, and odds are, they will be a staple for quite some time. Holmes also left enough loose ends in Rise of the Coven to write at least one more book in the Gateway Trackers. But something tells me Jess and Hannah’s adventures are nowhere near finished.
Rise of the Coven features a new threat to the Durupinen, a sisterhood born with a birthright to aid spirits to cross into the next realm. This threat, however, isn’t who you may think it is, if you read the previous books. Instead, it stems from someone, or a coven, that you didn’t see coming.
What I Liked About Rise of the Coven
For me, the blindside was epic. From the title to the book’s description, I knew this mysterious coven were the antagonists. But it didn’t come from the people in power. Instead, this coven rose from a group of characters you wouldn’t take so seriously.
I also loved the our latest Caomhnoir (think I spelled that right), Rana. She’s a feisty character who from the first scene, you want to see more of her. No character grows more in this book than Rana, and there’s reason to believe her arc is just beginning. Rarely am I such a fan of supporting characters, but Rana is one massive exception here.
What really got me though, was my sympathy toward our antagonists. Specifically the primary antagonist. While I pulled for Jess and Hannah in this book, I also couldn’t help rooting for the “bad guy” following the climactic scene. All I am going to say is, you will feel for an individual who may come off as a bit of a sociopath the more you get to know them.
One thing I’ve admired about Rise of the Coven along with the rest of E.E. Holmes’ works is that they don’t contain your classic good vs. evil trope. I find the trope to be long past its due date, and often close books immediately if I come across the oft-overused storyline. Once again, Holmes showed that, although Jess has always sided with the Durupinen, they are nothing more than the lesser evil, if that.
What I Didn’t Like
One of my biggest gripes here is that there were plot points that I felt were either forced, or otherwise disappeared. For example, Jess’ task with her mentor, Fiona, appeared to be something more pertinent to Rise of the Coven, before it disappeared into nothing more than a side note. However, we did get another glimpse of this toward the falling action scenes, so it may be something we see in later installments.
I also wasn’t a fan of what I thought was going to be a more dramatic climactic scene. Jess had been dreaming of what appeared to be a tragedy. And the Seer that she is, the dream kind of came true, but it turned out to be more of a joke than anything else. I felt Holmes was being misleading here, building up for something with a great deal of foreshadowing, before, well, you’ll just need to read it for yourself.
There was a lot in this book that I felt Holmes could have cut out, and it would have been just as good of a read. I also thought the entire engagement angle (won’t say who’s getting engaged here) was rushed. While I’m cool with blindsides, this one had more of a WTH vibe to it.
I would give Rise of the Coven 4 out of 5 runes. While the Gateway Trackers is one of my favorite series and deserves its own fandom, this one didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat as much as I’d have liked. And as mentioned, it just some storylines and settings fade into thin air that Holmes could have axed.
However, I went into this book with a good idea of who made up this coven and found myself blindsided. It was a pleasant surprise, and I also loved the sympathy Holmes made me feel for their leader. That’s a rare talent this author has, and one I’ll never have.
While I missed some of the characters we met in early installments, mainly Karen, who appeared in one measly scene, and Tia Vezga, who didn’t appear at all, I didn’t hold this against Holmes. Characters like Rana, Gemma, Aisling, and others filled the gaps well, and I can’t wait to see more of them.
While I didn’t feel Rise of the Coven was Holmes’ best work, it was also one of her top five. It’s something I will read again before her next book, City of the Forgotten, is released in June 2023. In the meantime, I’ll also be going through World of the Gateway’s audio editions, which have gotten me through some of my tougher workouts over the last few months.