The Children of Ynell series was originally published from 1977 to 1981, and was the first time I got involved in a series that wasn’t finished yet. In fact, I never did get the final book in a series I greatly enjoyed at the time.

The Shattered Stone is the first two of the five books of the (retitled) series, and certainly the ones I remember more strongly. They really affected me when I was young, and I’ve carried a memory of them and the author’s name for decades now as I occasionally think to hunt for copies. Make no mistake, these books deserve to be much better known than they are. They’re reasonably ‘adultish’ YA fantasy novels that are basically epic fantasy, though the focus is entirely on individuals.

The Ring of Fire introduces the world, focusing on a small town and and nearby village. It is largely a tale of growing up, and realizing your parents can’t or may even not want to solve everything. It starts out jumping between two viewpoint characters, which I didn’t remember, which I think is because Zephy takes over the entire book as it goes; Thorn is still there and important, but he slides out of being a viewpoint character. It’s not a pretty setting with a repressive (false) religion, and other methods of control while Zephy is the irrepressible free spirit, and her internal struggles do a lot to make the book. Things get worse, naturally, but at the same time, she and a few stumble into something of the truth, and features about the only religious experiences that have ever had any power for me.

The Wolf Bell, surprisingly, happens centuries earlier. Many dimly known, or distant past events are either recent, or just happening at this point. Most notably, the town of Burgdeeth that is the setting of most of the first book is just being built during this one. I’m not sure if this was planned from the start, or if Murphy decided to explore the ‘back story’ or what. Though it does make some sense to come second, as it would spoil a lot of the early-book reveals of the first book to read this first. That said, they’re only tenously connected books, and one does not really lean on the other. Also, the amount of magic available is much higher here, along with a consistently higher amount of action. On the other hand, the major characters aren’t quite as sympathetic, though this is presumably on purpose, as Ramad is impossibly mature for his age (and needs to be), and his mother is ruled by a strong selfish streak.

I don’t recall much of the next two books, so I can’t say where it goes from here, or how these two fit within the whole, but I remember that they are more dependent on these two than the second one is.