Book Tours: Starter Day Party “The Trials of Caste” and “Into the Heart of Evil”


I’m hosting a starter day party today for the book tour for fantasy novels “The Trials of Caste” and “Into the Heart of Evil”. I’ll be reviewing both books later on during the tour. In the mean time, visit the other tour stops.

Tour Schedule

 April 30th: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading

May 2nd: Promo “The Trials of Caste” @ Deal Sharing Aunt

May 4th: Author Interview @ The Single Librarian

May 6th: Promo Post “Into the Heart of Evil” @ Deal Sharing Aunt

May 8th: Guest Post @ Editor Charlene’s Blog

May 10th: Book Review “The Trials of Caste” @ I’m an Eclectic Reader

May 12th: Promo Post @ Book Club Sisters

May 14th: Book Review “Into the Heart of Evil” @ I’m an Eclectic Reader

May 16th: Book Excerpt “The Trials of Caste” @ Bookaholic Ramblings

May 18th: Author Interview @ Majanka’s Blog

May 20th: Book Excerpt “Into the Heart of Evil” @ Bookaholic Ramblings

May 22nd: Book Excerpts @ Realm Tramper

May 23rd: Book Review “The Trials of Caste” @ I Heart Reading

May 26th: Guest Post @ Endazzled Reading

May 28th: Promo Post “The Trials of Caste” @ Hollow Readers

May 30th: Book Review “Into the Heart of Evil” @ I Heart Reading

June 2nd: Author Interview @ Cassidy Crimson’s Blog

June 4th: Promo Post “Into the Heart of Evil” @ Hollow Readers

June 6th: Book Review “The Trials of Caste” @ Forever Book Lover

June 8th: Guest Post @ The Book Gazette

June 10th: Book Review “Into the Heart of Evil” @ Forever Book Lover

June 12th: Author Interview @ 365 Days of Reading

June 14th: Book Excerpt “The Trials of Caste” @ Bookish Madness

June 16th: Promo “The Trials of Caste” @ The Reading Guru

June 18th: Book Excerpt “Into the Heart of Evil” @ Bookish Madness

June 21st: Book Review “The Trials of Caste” @ Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock

June 22nd: Book Review “Into the Heart of Evil” @ Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock

June 24th: Character Interview @ The Book Daily

June 26th: Book Review “The Trials of Caste” @ Fantasy Book Lane

June 28th: Promo “Into the Heart of Evil” @ The Reading Guru

About The Books

Book 1 Final Cover for KindleTitle: The Trials of Caste

Author: Joel D.  Babbitt

Genre: Fantasy

A Game of Destiny, a Throne, a Paladin, a Prophecy… and Kobolds

In this explosive first novel in the Paladin of a Hidden God Series, the ancient game of destiny known as the Trials of Caste shows the Will of the Gods and reveals the Hand of the Fates.

A fresh voice in the Fantasy genre, Joel Babbitt’s story of Durik the kobold and his companions is genuine, triumphant, and absorbing.  In two days and two square miles of caverns, Joel takes the reader deep into the heart of a tribe in turmoil.  Looming insurrection, insurgent pacts, ancient powers, noble designs, and young aspirations combine to make the unforgettable coming-of-age tale of Durik the kobold and his companions.

With their year of training now past, Durik and six other young warriors are about to undergo the Trials of Caste where all of them will strive for the coveted position of elite warrior and the prestige and power that comes with it, though only one will win.  Simultaneously, a deadly conspiracy threatens to destroy their tribal leaders and seize the throne for its own evil purposes.  Durik and his six companions must each chose sides as the actions of an insurgent pact bring a day of decision for all the children of Kale.  Yet through it all, as if from beyond where the ancestors go, an ancient power calls to Durik, strengthening him as he and his closest companions risk everything to fight against this encroaching evil.

Book 2 Final Cover for KindleTitle: Into the Heart of Evil

Author: Joel D. Babbitt

Genre: Fantasy

In this second novel of the Paladin of a Hidden God series Joel masterfully weaves an explosive tale that puts Durik and his companions in a desperate fight for their lives, one they will only survive if they are true to themselves and to each other. 

It was supposed to be an easy journey… a simple first step for a band of new warriors.  But evil has an agenda of its own, and relentless conquest strikes when it chooses.  And what can so few do against so many?  Yet evil is not the only power that stirs in the southern valley; from deep in their prophetic past an ancient power also has returned, nurturing, watching, and helping its paladin.  On the anvils of danger and sacrifice Durik and his small group of companions will be forged by the hammer of their mutual hardships into an able band of heroes, but only if they can survive the journey into the heart of evil…

Author Bio

authorJoel Babbitt is an officer in the U.S. Army and a bishop in his church.  He has spent his entire adult life living and teaching principles of leadership and team building in a warrior environment.  Joel and his family live in Maryland, USA.

Follow the author at:

@AuthorJoel on Twitter

Book Review: Eclipse (The Third Book of Ascension) by Dirk Strasser

MOM030_Eclipse_AWTitle: Eclipse (The Third Book of Ascension)

Author: Dirk Strasser

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Age Group: Young Adult and up

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Can you see the story breathing?
What happens if after the winter solstice, the days keep getting shorter?
And shorter?
Until there is an eternal night?
What happens as the darkness grows?
And the creatures of dusk take control of the Mountain?
And the quest for the third Book is the only hope?
The Mountain is in its death throes as the Nazir send their wraiths to finish what the dusk-rats and grale had begun. Soon there will be no daylight to protect the Maelir and Faemir, and with each twilight there are fewer places to hide. Will the Mountain finally collapse under its own instability or will Atreu and Verlinden’s descent find the words of salvation in the Lost Book of Ascension?

Eclipse is the third and final installment in the Books of Ascension series, and it offers a satisfying ending to an interesting, thought-provoking series. Rather than going up the Mountain, this time around, Atreu, our main character, travels down. He’s miles away from the boy he was at the start of the series, and although enlightened, and with knowledge and power he never thought he had, he still has to complete one final task. Down below, at the foot of the mountain, the battle rages on, and the Nazir seem to be winning the battle, and it’s Atrue and Verlinden’s knowledge that may just save the world.

In a way, this book is a reversal of what happened in the first book. Rather than travelling up the mountain in search of enlightment, Atreu, now possessing knowledge he could’ve never imagined, travels down the mountain. He’s grown from a child into a man. Eclipse also gathers all loose threads and plot points into an epic finale that outshines the previous parts of the series in terms of complexity and epicness. The scales have never been higher, the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

With great writing, characters who go through such steady development readers can easily follow along on their journey, and an epic, engaging world, Dirk Strasser has weaved an intriguing fantasy series that is a must-read for all fans of epic fantasy.

Book Review: Trinity by Clare Davidson

15760637Title: Trinity
Author: Clare Davidson
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: July 12th, 2012
Goodreads | Author Website | Amazon | B&N
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Kiana longs to walk through a forest and feel grass between her toes. But she is the living embodiment of a goddess and has enemies who wish to murder her. Her death will curse the whole of Gettryne. Locked away for protection, she dreams of freedom.
Her wish comes true in the worst possible way, when her home and defenders are destroyed.
Along with an inexperienced guard and a hunted outcast, Kiana flees the ravages of battle to search for a solution to the madness that has gripped Gettryne for a thousand years. Pursued by the vicious and unrelenting Wolves, their journey will take them far beyond their limits, to a secret that will shake the world.

Trinity has an amazing cover. It may be superficial, but that was the first thing I noticed about this book, and the first reason why I wanted to read it. I didn’t care about the plot, at first glance I knew this book was giong to be something I enjoyed based on the cover alone. So then I went to read the synopsis, and I liked it. I thought it was a fresh and original take on our regular, well-known epic fantasy stories. And it was for young adults. Double win. So I said ‘yes’ to a review copy and began reading the book practically as soon as I got it in my mailbox.

Kiana is the living embodiment of a goddess. If she dies, the entire land will be cursed. To prevent that from happening, she’s locked up in a tower, surrounded by guards, handmaidens and teachers. What she wishes for more than anything else however, is freedom. Well, wishes have a strange way of coming true in ways you don’t expect, and don’t want to. The tower Kiana lives in is attacked by the Wolves, enemies of the goddess she represents. They kill many of her guards, and Kiana can barely escape. With the help of a guard who’s on duty for the very first time, but who would lay down his life to save hers, and a Wolf outcast who’s consumed from within by a dangerous and powerful magic every time he tries to protect himself, Kiana must make it out of the woods alive, and stay out of the Wolves’ claws.

The world author Clare Davidson introduces us to is vivid, imaginative and colorful. It’s a completely different take from the fantasy worlds I’m used to reading about, and that I enjoyed very much. The story is action-packed and mysterious, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat until the end when all (okay, maybe not all, but part) is revealed and the veil is lifted. As I said, the world building was fabulous. The writing was decent as well. The vocabulary wasn’t flowery when it didn’t need to, and that worked well. Since the book was primarily aimed at young adults, it didn’t dwell too much on descriptions, except, of course, to describe the world.

The plot itself was delightful as well. The action didn’t stop once. They’re on the run for their lives from start to finish. Add in a little mystery, betrayal and some nice plot twists, and you have an enjoyable story. I also liked the secondary characters. Each one seemed well-developed, especially since they only appeared briefly – and most of them really added something to the story.

What I didn’t like? Kiana. I know what you’re going to say – how can you enjoy a book when you don’t like the main character? Well, turns out it’s possible. I thought Kiana spend most of the time complaining, and granted, she had every right to complain, but she just complained for all the wrong reasons. She evolved, albeit slowly, but I failed to grasp why, and what exactly triggered her character progress at some points. After her guards have been slaughtered, she seems more interested in the Wolf outcast and making sure he’s all right than in mourning the loss of people whom she knew her entire life. I thought it was a bit odd, as if the deaths of those people were cast aside immediately and meant little to nothing. Her whole character progress seemed a little wonky at times.

However, I can easily forgive the unlikeable main character, since the plo was so good it kept me reading till the end, and the secondary characters made up for a lot of the main character’s failures. If you like epic fantasy and you’re up for something new, try Trinity. In terms of plot and world building, it will definitely not dissapoint.

Book Review: Thieves at Heart (Valley of Ten Crescents #1) by Tristan J. Tarwater

18751216Title: Thieves at Heart
Author: Tristan J. Tarwater
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Back That Elf Up
Publication Date: September 28th 2011
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Tavera is a half-elf child in a land of humans, an outsider dragged from bad to worse–until Derk whisks her away and adopts her as his own. Tavera soon finds out her new Pa is a master thief, a member of a secret, elite group of professional scoundrels called the Cup of Cream. Outlaws, yes, but they have their pride; thievery is as necessary as any other profession in the Valley of Ten Crescents.
To Derk’s–and her own–delight, Tavera grows into a natural thief and works her way toward membership in the Cup. An invitation would finally give her a place to belong, and it would please the father she loves so much.
But being a thief means being only one step ahead of the law. When the law finally catches up, Tavera must choose: go against her Pa’s wishes for the sake of loyalty and love; or obey him, break her heart and survive.

Tavera, or Tavi as most people call her, is a half-elf in a world of humans. When we first meet her, she is hiding in the shadows of her mother’s luxurious chambers. Her mother, or well, the woman Tavi was sold to, works as a prostitute, and whenever she can, Tavi steals money from the customers. Tavi’s thieving actions catch the attention of an elite thief, Derk “The Lurk”. Derk buys Tavi and introduces her to his lifestyle. While taking care of Tavi, Derk soon grows to be a father figure, and it’s obvious he truly and genuinely cares about Tavi.

The novel starts out strong, and the premise is more than a little intriguing. Unfortunately, that’s when the story falls a little flat. The story lacks a climax. There is no nemesis to fight at the end, no valuable object to steal in the most exciting burglarly of the century, nothing, nada. Tavi steals some things, she has a few moments with Derk, and she spends the rest of the time talking and growing up. I truly enjoy coming of age stories, but here I lacked a certain bit of story. I wanted an epic adventure, or at least an adventure, and this reads more like a memoir. Tavi grows up, meets people, gets her period, and meets some more people. There is no real tension, no real story. This feels like part of a much larger story, but not in a way most first books of a series do. Even though they’re part of a larger story, they do have tension and a climax, both which are lacking in Thieves at Heart. The action does pick up at the end though.

However, I did enjoy the rest of the book as well, although I was a tad bit disappointed there wasn’t more to it. Tristan J. Tarwater creates vibrant, well-rounded characters that could do so much more than what they set out to do in Thieves of Heart. The characters made up for the lack of plot at times. Tavi and Derk were my favorites, but the side characters were intriguing as well, and I loved meeting every single one of them.

The fantasy setting is phenomenal. The world this author has created has everything you’d look for in a fantasy world, and a lot more. The descriptions of the various places Tavi and Derk visit are outstanding as well, and made me feel like I was really there. The setting and characters alone were intriguing enough to keep me reading. The writing itself is solid as well. There were some long, confusing sentences along the way, but nothing that off-putting that it would make me stop reading. I’m known for making long and confusing sentences as well, so I really had no problem with it.

Classifying this book is difficult. It’s obviously fantasy, but I’m not sure if the book is suited for young adults. It’s definitely not suited for younger children, in my opinion, but some young adults could read it properly, at least the older half of the young adult age group. For a debut novel, I do think Thieves at Heart is pretty impressive. The writing is solid, the characters are well-rounded and intriguing, and the setting is just plain awesome. Tristan J. Tarwater is planning to write more books in this fantasy world, and I have to say that’s an excellent choice. I would love to learn more about Tavi and Derk, their world, and some of their adventures. I recommend this books to all fans of fantasy novels, who want to see something different from the epic farmer boy turns into magical hero plot.

Book Review: Fezariu’s Epiphany by David M. Brown

11451305Title: Fezariu’s Epiphany
Author: David M. Brown
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: May 16th 2011
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Author Website | B&N | Amazon

12-year-old Fezariu thought his mother died when he was little, but when his beloved stepfather dies the boy discovers she is alive and well – and working at the most famous brothel in all of Elenchera. When she cruelly rejects him it’s more than he can bear, and he runs away to join a band of ruthless soldiers for hire. The Merelax Mercenaries will fight for anyone who can pay them, no matter the justice of the cause.
Fezariu grows up among the soldiers and becomes one of them. He thinks his time with the mercenaries has hardened him. But a campaign in his old home town pushes him too far, and he discovers what really happened to his mother. Maybe there are some things money shouldn’t buy… and maybe it’s time Fezariu took his revenge.

Fezariu’s Epiphany is one of the most intriguing and entertaining epic fantasy books I’ve read during the last two years. While most fantasy stories rely heavily on action, plot and setting, this book draws most from its characters. Fezariu, the main character, is as complex and multi-dimensional as they come. While he was still a young kid, he went through a devastating tragedy which made me instantly relate to him. To be honest, so far Fezariu doesn’t seem to be very lucky in life, and the way he deals with the tragedy that follows him makes him more appealing as a character. The main focus point of the story is are human decisions, how they can go wrong and what the consequences are when they do. That’s the strength of the entire book: it relies on humans, on people, rather than on events to tell us what happens.

David Brown’s writing style, for a fantasy novel, is pretty direct. Whereas in Tolkien (don’t kill me for saying this) can spend twenty pages to describe one single feature, Brown leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination – just the way I like it.

We follow young Fezariu from his childhood into adulthood. Fezariu thinks he’s cursed and joins a group of mercaneries because he’s convinced he can’t ever let anyone get close to him again. He’ll eventually have to learn that the only way to break his supposed curse is by letting people in again. It’s a hard and complicated lesson to learn, and of course the journey from childhood to becoming an adult is a rocky path, filled with twists and turns, important decisions, wrong decisions and a lot more. Fezariu’s growth as a character is impressive, and because it takes place gradually, the reader almost gets to see him change in front of their eyes.

The world of Elenchera is truly wonderful as well. It has a very thorough and in-depth history, and is just filled with diversity and really shows the author’s creativity. I’m looking forward to reading more novels set in the world of Elenchera. If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, you really can’t miss out on Fezariu’s Epiphany. It’s that kind of rare jewel of a book that only comes by once in a while.

The God King by James West and Giveaway

51Q7naHo13LTitle: The God King
Author: James West
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publication Date: November 11th 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.

Heroes are not born, they are forged in the fires of apocalypse…
In the heavens above, the three moons crash together, streaming fire and death in their wake; below, the seas rage as the roiling face of the world shatters. After Prince Varis Kilvar steals powers to transform himself into a god, chaos reigns from the king’s city of Ammathor to the forbidding walls of the Black Keep. At his heels marches a demonic army torn from the very bowels of the Thousand Hells, and the risen God King uses terror to stake his claim over all lands.
Betrayed and bound to Varis by powers he does not understand, mercenary Kian Valara is forced to masquerade as the world’s savior, while a beautiful Sister of Najihar prepares him for his last battle. Victory against a living god is far from certain, but vengeance? For Kian, when the battle rage falls upon his soul and the sword hilt is hot and alive against his palm, vengeance is never out of reach.

I love epic fantasy. Sword-wielding heroes, century-old prophecies, magicians living in secluded towers, kings waging wars to expand their territory, those are the elements that first got me into reading books. Epic fantasy books were the first kind of books I read for my own enjoyment, and it’s still my favorite genre today. I love a good mystery or a scary thriller just as much as the next person, but nothing makes me feel more in my element than snuggling down on the couch with a good chunkster in typical fantasy style. What I like most about these types of books is the creative element. Because they don’t take place in our every day world, the author has the option to go completely crazy and invent whatever the heck they want and place it into their fantasy world. Dragons, faeries, prophecies, seers, you name it, it can be done. Also, the sheer amount of detail that goes into creating a fantasy world is extraordinary. You actually create an entire world from scratch. A world with its own economic system, its own borders, democracy/monarchy/whatever type of state structure you want, religion, myths, magic and then you make sure everything you say or do in the book follows the rules you set for this particular fantasy world. It actually gives a god-like characteristic to the author, who has now not only become the creator of books, but also the creator of a fantasy world.

Sometimes these fantasy worlds are rich and compelling. Think Game of Thrones or Lord Of The Rings. While The God King isn’t as overwhelming and detailed as Game of Thrones – which would be a remarkable feat on its own – it does compete well with other fantasy books. In fact, I thought the setting, the fantasy world in which the story takes place, was both amusing and entertaining, with just the right amount of detail without wasting too much time on telling background stories that have little or nothing to do with the plot. The key point here is the story, the characters and their adventures, and the fantasy setting just serves as a background for these characters to do what they want to do and for the story to develop. I actually believe this is one of the hardest things when writing a fantasy book – what amount of detail regarding the fantasy world do you mention in your story, when do you mention it and why. James A. West definitely succeeds in this department. He doesn’t overwhelm the reader with information, but instead spills it gradually, making us warm up to the world and setting of The God King with every page we read.

The main characters are strong and compelling. On the one hand you have the male lead, Kian, who isn’t your stereotypical fantasy hero. Kian isn’t a person you would necessarily like the moment you meet him. He’s tough, strong and a man of actions rather than words. Since his current profession is that of a mercenary, you can understand why I didn’t exactly want to be besties with him when I was first introduced to our main character. However, as the story unfolded and Kian poses as a relucant hero, I began to feel more and more sympathies towards the character and halfway through the book I realized that I actually kind of like him. He has charisma, although you wouldn’t notice that at first. There’s also something oddly amusing about the way he interacts with Hazad and Azuri, his companions, which made me like him even more. They all went through rough times, which shaped them as characters and added interesting tidbits to their personalities.

Let’s talk about the female lead, Ellonlef. To my shame I have to admit that I don’t like her name. I know that’s superficial, but I’m not a big fan of her name. However, I’m a big fan of the character. Some fantasy authors have the tendency to make their female characters one of two generic stereotypes. Either they’re meek and helpless and can do absolutely nothing themselves without the hero coming to rescue them, or they’re war-hardened giants who can only talk about how much they want to chop someone’s head in. Ellonlef doesn’t fit in either of those stereotypes. Although Kian saves Ellonlef in the beginning of the book, she turns the tables around by taking the lead and helping him stop the villain of this book, Prince Varis. Ellonlef is charming, witty and intelligent, and thankfully she doesn’t need help every other second.

The storyline itself is intriguing to say the least. Prince Varis, who has a knack for evil, manages to transform himself into a powerful God, causing chaos and turmoil with his demonic army everywhere he goes. As if it’s a joke of fate, Kian finds himself the only person who can stop Varis and meanwhile save the world. I don’t want to give away too much spoilers, but let me tell you that the story certainly delivers. It was a bit different than I expected when I first began reading it, but in a good way. The pacing takes a bit to build up, mainly because the reader still has to get to know the setting, the lore and the characters, but once the pacing picked up, I became entirely engrossed in the story. Sleep? Food? Long forgotten.

The God King is a fascinating, endaring fantasy novel with relatable, intriguing characters and a rich, detailed fantasy setting. Definitely recommend for fans of the fantasy genre. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for any other books James West decides to publish.

This book counts towards the Fantasy Challenge and the Go Indie Challenge.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Abhorsen (The Abhorsen Trilogy #3) by Garth Nix

47666Title: Abhorsen (The Abhorsen Trilogy #3)
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 3rd 2005
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Rating: 5 stars

Orannis the Destroyer has been freed…

And only Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, has any chance of stopping it. She and her companions — Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget — have to take that chance. If Orannis’s unspeakable powers are unleashed, it will mean the end of all Life. With the help of her companions and a vision from the Clayr to guide her, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the Destroyer — before it is too late…

I already reviewed the first two books of this trilogy, Sabriel and Lirael, and I have to say that out of all three of these books, I enjoyed Abhorsen the most. It’s like everything finally comes together in a great climax: the characters are well-defined and familiar, so we don’t have to get to know them all over again, which brings us straight into the action. Finally we learn why Prince Sameth is scared of the Realm of the Death, why he never wanted to be an Abhorsen, and what the heck he is if he doesn’t fit into that pattern. With the return of my favorite two characters, The Disreputable Dog and Mogget, the charismatic but often incredibly sarcastic cat, and their more prominent roles in this book, we finally learn more about the true nature of Free Magic and why everyone involved is actually…well, involved. The ending has epic proportions and would look great on the big screen.

At the beginning of Abhorsen, we meet up with Lirael and Prince Sameth who’ve set off to rescue Nick, Sam’s old friend from his previous school in Ancelstierre, who unfortunately has had a fragment of The Destroyer placed in his heart, which results in him being the “vessel” of The Destroyer. Under the command and watchful eye of necromancer Hedge, poor Nick – who will now be forced to believe in the magic he claimed was non-existent – is leading the search for two silver hemispheres hidden deep beneath the earth. Each of them holds half of the essence of The Destroyer, and when put together, they can unleash the ancient creature of evil and potentially bring doom to the entire Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre as well. Lirael has finally come to terms with the fact that she’ll never See the future, and is instead learning how to ring the bells like a true Abhorsen does. They fight off Gore Crows, Dead Hands and other memorable creatures on their quest towards Nick – and their quest to save the entire Kingdom. Eventually the battle is brought from the Old Kingdom to the heart of Ancelstierre, where – quite literally – all hell is about to break loose.

Lirael has really grown a lot as a character over the course of the previous book, and this shows especially at the beginning of Abhorsen. Gone is the timid, scared teenager who is devastated over not belonging to the family of the Clayr in the way that she cannot See. Meet instead, our new Abhorsen, ready to challenge even the most fearsome creatures of the Realm of Death in a duel, and ready to fight until the very end. Confident, reassured, intelligent and unnaturally quick to learn the ways those Abhorsen bells work, Lirael is a crafty and skillful opponent. Except that for the numerous Dead unleashed, she’s only a small glitch in the path towards destruction. Sameth has done a lot of growing up as well. Finally finding his place in the world as Wallmaker, and finally realizing why he is the way he is, has done him a lot of good. He no longer doubts himself or his choices in life, and he isn’t worried about the fact that he’s not Abhorsen-material anymore either. It seems as though finally these two youngsters have found their place in the world, and have realized who they truly are inside. And not a moment too soon, because in this book there isn’t a lot of time left to ponder about emotions, life choices and fears.

At the verge of total destruction, the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre have to rely on these two heroes, their sidekicks, and occassional appearances of Sabriel and Prince Touchstone and other familiar characters. We’re thrown right into the action, and see the events unfold before the final countdown. Of all the books in The Abhorsen Trilogy, this one is no doubt the most fast-paced, action-packed and glued-to-your-seat one. The pace does not drop for one single second, the feeling of dread, fear and a soon-to-come climax never dissapears, and it feels like everything just clicks into place. A lot of unanswered questions are explained – some are left unanswered though, leaving room for a possible second trilogy or series – and the ending is cataclysmic to say the least. It’s a battle the size of which can only be compared with the battle at the end of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy or at the end of the Harry Potter series. Epic in proportions, the ancient good vs. evil contradiction, and of course, there’s always a price to pay for victory…

Once again, it was Mogget who made the day for me. He is by far the most interesting and loveable character in the entire Trilogy, and Abhorsen is no exception. He has a sarcastic and cynical sense of humor, his loyalties are questionable the say the least, his intentions are not always the right ones, but it’s those little facts, like never knowing whose side he’s really on – probably his own, in the end – that make him all the more entertaining. If Garth Nix ever decides to write a book devoted to Mogget, I’d be the first one in line to buy it. I’m also thinking about starting a Mogget fanclub, complete with T-shirts and cat bells. Donations are welcome and of course, encouraged.

I would also like to applaud Nix’s magic system, which is explained in greater detail in this final installment in the series. While a lot of authors treat magic as a “deus ex machina”, Nix has a well-constructed, metaphysical magic system that is both impressive and unique. His world-building skills, although already shown through the first two books, are even more prominent in the final volume. His characters are well-developed, easy to relate to, and at all times entertaining. He highlights old but often forgotten values like loyalty, friendship, courage, determination, and the value of family, but he also portrays that sometimes these come at a very steep price. Although claimed as being ‘young adult’, I reckon that because these books deal with things like death, loss and severe suffering, they are aimed at an older public, 16-17 and older. I would recommend this final volume in one of the most breathtaking, innovating, enthralling and vivid series to every fantasy fan out there. The Abhorsen Trilogy is sheer brilliance, and I hope Garth Nix shows that brilliance in his other works as well. I am definately impressed.

Book Review: Lirael (The Abhorsen Trilogy #2) by Garth Nix

47629Title: Lirael (The Abhorsen Trilogy #2)
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: CollinsVoyager
Publication Date: September 1st 2004
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Rating: 4,5 stars

Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Abandoned by her mother, ignorant of her father’s identity, Lirael resembles no one else in her large extended family living in the Clayr’s glacier. She doesn’t even have the Sight–the ability to See into the present and possibly futures–that is the very birthright of the Clayr.

Nonetheless, it is Lirael in whose hands the fate of the Old Kingdom lies. She must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil–one that opposes the Royal Family, blocks the Sight of the Clayr, and threatens to break the very boundary between Life and Death itself. With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog to help her, Lirael must find the courage to seek her own hidden destiny.

Fourteen years have passed since Sabriel deveated the evil lurking behind The Ninth Gate in the first book in the series, but still there are powers of darkness at work in The Old Kingdom – powers so ancient and devastating that this time, the powers of the Abhorsen alone might not be enough to deliver the kingdom from evil. With Sabriel running off on Abhorsen-duties and King Touchstone working around the clock to keep the kingdom in check, and re-establish old orders long forgotten, it might be up to their children to fight evil this time.

Prince Sameth, the youngest child of the most famous Abhorsen and her equally-famous husband, is taking classes at Ancelstierre and exceeding in all expectations, except those placed on him as future Abhorsen. After a trip to the river Styx gone bad, Sameth is deadly terrified ever to enter the Realm of the Dead again. Unwilling to let his mother, his ancestors and the entire Kingdom down, he tries to hide his fear, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the Kingdom, we meet Lirael. She’s a daughter of the Clayr, one of the important magical families of the Old Kingdom. She is separated from extended family by her strange looks and what’s even worse, her unability to See. Unlike the other Clayr, Lirael has no power to see into the future and, it seems, she is unlikely to ever gain it. What Lirael does have is cleverness and curiosity and an unmistakable talent for magic. However, that doesn’t mean that Lirael isn’t insanely jealous over the other Clayr for being able to See, and that she still feels like an outsider in her own home. Her only refuge is the library. Filled with knowledge and dangers (both remembered and forgotten), the library is a place of seemingly endless proportions. Exploring the library, Lirael’s magical abilities grow and she even forges a companion from Ancient Magic, The Disreputable Dog.

With the dangers of Chlorr of the Mask and the necromancer Hedge lurking about, the Old Kingdom may just have to face its greatest adversaries up till now. But although these two are bad enough on their own, there might be an even greater and more terrifying evil behind them. And Prince Sameth, his best friend Nick and Lirael are right in the middle of it…

It was obvious from the start that Lirael, the main character of this book, has a lot more personality traits going for her than Sabriel. With that, I don’t mean that she’s a more interesting character per sé, she just leaves a more memorable expression in your mind. Why? Because whereas I was convinced the first book in the series, Sabriel, was clearly directed towards an older audience than the book’s apparent genre (young adult), it’s obvious that Lirael is much more like a whining teenager than Sabriel could ever be. And even though I found her at times annoying, and I wanted to slap her across the head on multiple occassions, she isn’t as untouchable, stony and all-mighty powerful as Sabriel was. Don’t get me wrong, Sabriel had issues as well, but she was practically an adult by the time her story started, and in any case she managed to behave herself like one. Lirael on the other hand, is a prime example of how any ordinary teenager reacts to not feeling wanted in her own home, of not being like everyone else, to being an outsider.

Putting that aside though, Lirael is a real crybaby as well. So she doesn’t See and she hardly fits in with the other members of the Clayr. But even when trusted upon with ancient secrets, even when being able to practice such advanced Magic that she manages to create/summon The Disreputable Dog, Lirael still continues to whine and whine and whine. She even thinks about ending her life, because nothing in the world could be more important than Seeing something. It doesn’t once cross her minds that she can do things the other Clayr could never dream of, or that she’s pretty special in her own way. Also, did I mention that she’s remarkably beautiful? So beautiful that people she doesn’t know come to talk to her from the other side of the Clayr’s dining room. Whereas other people would atleast try to have a pleasant conversation, or behave politely, Lirael could care less about other’s feelings, and she doesn’t care about boys admiring her. Why? Because she can’t See. And if you can’t See, in Lirael’s world, then you can’t be pretty/intelligent/nice to hang around with/interesting/special either. That’s how short-sighted the girl really is. She might be more memorable and easier to relate to than Sabriel, but she’s immature and ignorant as well.

Fortunately for us, the reader, she does turn around as the story progresses. Sure, she wasn’t exactly as grateful as I would have liked her to be when she discovered more about her ancestors and her purpose in life, but hey – it’s whiny teenager we’re talking about here. She wouldn’t be grateful if her life depended on it. She loves The Disreputable Dog but hardly realizes what a trustworthy, loyal and strong companion he is. Like everything in her life, she doesn’t respect him/her (what is the dog? a female or a male? I have no idea) the way she should, because he/she didn’t help her to See. Well, boohoo. That’s kind of like saying: everyone in my family is a mime player. If I have no talent whatsoever to be a mime, than everything else in life doesn’t count. Not even if I have the brains and skills to create something that travels faster than the speed of light, or if I can become President of the United States. You know, because I’m not a mime and everyone in my family is a mime. Suuuure, Lirael. Sure. Saving the Old Kingdom vs. being your average, ten in a dozen Seer is so much cooler. Please grow up already.

Prince Sameth has a couple childhood-issues of his own to deal with, but they make him interesting rather than whiny. He struggles with his responsibilities as the next Abhorsen, since he’s terrified of travelling to the Realm of the Dead ever since getting attacked there by an opponent far stronger than he. Instead, he loves to build things. Anything. And he’s actually pretty good at what he does, because his displays of craftmanship are often looked upon respectfully by others who see them. By his own family not so much though. Whereas Lirael doesn’t fit in due to something she had no choice in, Sameth purposefully chooses not to belong to his family. It’s not that he wants it though, it’s that his choices in life, mostly his fears, prevail him from doing what his family expects. Lirael is too ignorant to see the other choices life has given her besides being a Seer, Prince Sameth sees the choices but is too afraid to choose one of them. Teenagers nowadays…Why I liked Sameth more was because his problems seem less due to his own ignorance than to his position and fears. He’s a Prince for god’s sake. Cowardice doesn’t suit the royal blood well, and yet that’s exactly what Sam encounters while venturing to the Realm of the Dead. His own cowardice. The struggle between Sameth and his own fears is an interesting one, a coming-of-age story that’s quite inspiring and puts a lot of thoughts on your mind.

But scratch Lirael’s ignorance and Sameth’s irrational fear. Scratch the evil necromancers Chlorr of the Mask (although I did find her interesting) and Hedge. Because that’s not what makes this book great – although it helps a fair share. It’s Lirael’s ventures into the library, which is an impressive example of world-building skills alltogether with its many secret rooms, its hierarcy of librarians, and its ancient secrets waiting to be unlocked and The Disreputable Dog – a creature of magic more ancient than the Kingdoms itself that make this book interesting. A character of great intelligence, courage and determination, The Dog is also witty, hilarious and highly entertaining. Not as much as Mogget though, who makes another appearance in this book (by far the best scenes, if I’m being honest) and who is still captured by a sleeping-spell causing him to sleep at least fifteen hours a day. I think I might just start a Mogget fanclub soon. Anyone feel like joining?

If you asked me whether I liked Sabriel or Lirael more, I’d have to say that I prefer Lirael. Maybe not for the characters or their incredibly interesting personalities (notice the sarcasm?) but because there weren’t so many things to explain in this book. Whereas in book one, the author still had to introduce us to the world of Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom, the various ways magic is practiced here, the duties of the Abhorsen and their use of enchanted bells, we already know that by the time we venture into book two. Less explaining to do, more action and dialogue to enjoy. I also enjoyed the fact that whereas Sabriel could be a stand-alone read, Lirael really isn’t. By the end, I couldn’t wait to grab the next book in the trilogy, Abhorsen, and devour it completely in one reading session.

As usually, Garth Nix’s writing style is spot-on. He develops his characters nicely, and even if I find some of their personality traits down-right nauseating, that doesn’t mean that they’re not well-developed, or that they don’t go through some sort of growth-process. Lirael is a fast-paced, action-packed sequel to Sabriel, and exceeds the first novel in the Abhorsen Trilogy in both storyline and plot development. The world we are presented with, from the frosty mountains of the Clayr to the Royal Palace where Sameth resides, is rich, compelling and enthralling. I cannot wait to venture into the world of the Old Kingdom again, and do some more exploring. Recommended to all fantasy fans bored of the elves/humans/dwarfs war triangles, and up for something new and refreshing. The Abhorsen Trilogy will not dissapoint.

Book Review: Sabriel (The Abhorsen Trilogy #1) by Garth Nix

1042542Title: Sabriel (The Abhorsen Trilogy #1)
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
Publisher: CollinsVoyager
Publication Date: May 6th 2003
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon

Who will guard the living when the dead arise? Sabriel is sent as a child across the Wall to the safety of a school in Ancelstierre. Away from magic; away from the Dead. After receiving a cryptic message from her father, 18-year-old Sabriel leaves her ordinary school and returns across the Wall into the Old Kingdom. Fraught with peril and deadly trickery, her journey takes her to a world filled with parasitical spirits, Mordicants, and Shadow Hands — for her father is none other than The Abhorson. His task is to lay the disturbed dead back to rest. This obliges him — and now Sabriel, who has taken on her father’s title and duties — to slip over the border into the icy river of Death, sometimes battling the evil forces that lurk there, waiting for an opportunity to escape into the realm of the living. Desperate to find her father, and grimly determined to help save the Old Kingdom from destruction by the horrible forces of the evil undead, Sabriel endures almost impossible challenges whilst discovering her own supernatural abilities — and her destiny.

A wall is the only thing seperating Ancelstierre, a mostly human-inhabited town with technology, electronics and weapons (although one can hardly use any of those things in such close distance to the wall) from the Old Kingdom, a place where strange monsters terrify little children, ancient magic is still practiced often, and necromancers can bring the dead back to life. It’s also the place where Sabriel’s father, the Abhorsen – which is not exactly a name, but more like a rank – is still residing, making sure the dead do what they do best: staying dead. Although the job subscription might sound interesting and honorable at first, it’s a tiring task that brings the Abhorsen from the one end of the Kingdom to the next, and often keeps him away from his daughter.

On recommendation of her father, Sabriel attends a boarding school in Ancelstierre. Although magic is not commonly practiced there, it is at her school, and every single student knows who she is. The daughter of the Abhorsen, destined to be Abhorsen too one day, to learn the Book of the Dead by heart and to spend her entire life chasing dead people on the River of Death and putting them back to rest. But on the day before her scheduled meeting with her father, it is a servant of Death who comes to visit her instead. The only possible conclusion is that Sabriel’s father is in great peril, probably kidnapped or defeated by one of the Higher Dead.

Now, with no one left to stand between the world of the living and the world of the death, Sabriel is the only left who can don the bells of necromancy and use the ancient secrets of charter magic to stop the walking dead from overwhelming the Old Kingdom. Because one of the most powerful entities from the Realm of the Dead has escaped, and he’s out to take revenge, and to reclaim what was once his. The Old Kingdom, and possibly Ancelstierre as well.

There isn’t much I can say about The Abhorsen Trilogy that hasn’t been said before. With his books Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen, Garth Nix crafts a dazzling, strong and compelling fantasy series with highly original concepts, entertaining and genuine-sounding characters, and one of the first series that successfully combines epic and dark fantasy, featuring both a magical Old Kingdom, necromancers and the rising dead. Garth Nix’s cleverness as a writer shows as he manages to create both an instantly addictive plot and an alternate world that seems both halfway familiar but also unsettingly strange. Every day events are colored with references to a most dark past, creatures that once roamed the Old Kingdom, and magics so ancient and strong that they could change the world forever. The plot hardly stops to catch a breath, and I felt quite surprised when I turned the final page. Not that everything hadn’t wrapped up nicely – it had, up to some point, which can be expected from the first book in the trilogy – but because I was surprised that I had already finished reading.

One of the best things about this book, is the distinction between the world on one side of the wall, Ancelstierre for example, filled with technology, cars, etc. and cosely resembling England in the 1930s, whereas the world on the other side of the wall, The Old Kingdom, still dwells in the middle ages and is the setting for magic, ancient bloodlines, prophecies and epic sword-wielding heroes. The world-building is nothing if not impressive, and I must admit that I loved everything Garth Nix introduced: from the island of the Abhorsen, to the Realm of the Death, to the Perimeter in front of the wall. He manages to provide his readers with an impressive amount of information in a short period of time, without ever going overboard or letting the plot slow down.

Sabriel is unlike any fantasy heroine I’ve come across in literature. She’s no damsel in distress or fierce warrior woman or almost-invincible sorceress. In fact, she’s a young adult who happened to inherit some wicked powers and is still struggling to make them work as they should, and who, on top of that, needs to rescue her father from the Realm of the Dead. She acts and behaves not like your average fantasy character – full of courage, determined, grown up beyond her years – but as a real human being would do: devastated, scared, but with the knowledge that, if anyone is to rescue her father, it will have to be her. Which involuntarily brings her to a position of responsibility, although her eighteen-year-old self would love nothing more than to stay as far away from those responsibilities as possible. She’s intelligent enough to know when to stay and fight – and not foolishly courageous as some fantasy heroes, who in the end have to rely on a deus ex machina to deliver them from their perils – and when to run as far away as possible as fast as possible.

I have to admit that the other characters, especially Touchstone, Sabriel’s prince-in-distress (it’s nice to switch a damsel for a prince for once) are a bit flat. And ‘a bit flat’ might be an understatement. I was occassionally worrying, especially the fifty first page Touchstone made his appearance, if he had any personality at all. It reminded me faintly of fairytales, wherein we get to follow the prince from page one, as he goes through trial after trial to save his beloved princess, who we only meet briefly because she’s locked up in an enchanted tower (castle/hidden by a dragon/sleeping a hundred years/a kitchen maid/insert whatever you like) and all we know about her is that she’s beautiful, fair and good-natured. Except here Sabriel is the brave and intelligent prince, and Touchstone is the princess, whose only mentionable character traits are that he’s fairly good-looking and he spend a couple of centuries turned into stone. So maybe that’s enough to make someone loose their personality alltogether, but I highly doubt it. For all I care, Touchstone could have never turned human again, and Sabriel could have just brought him along in stone-shape for the rest of the book, because he would have an equally charming personality (none whatsoever) and he would have done equally important things for the plotline (none whatsoever). Also, it was a bit too coincedental that Sabriel just happened to stumble upon the only living (well…turned into stone, but you get my point) prince of the Old Kingdom just then, and just happened to reinstall monarchy as a side-effect of her adventure. Yeah, right.

But whereas Touchstone has the personality of a bumblebee, there is one person (well, not exactly a person…) who makes up for any personality traits the other characters seem to be lacking. So much even that when Garth Nix would decide to write a novel focused on this character alone, I would literally run to the nearest book store to purchase myself a copy. It’s like in Raymond E. Feist’s The Riftwar Saga books, where all characters are pretty decent and fun, but there’s one character – in that case, Jimmy The Hand – who stands out so much from the others, because he’s intelligent, hilarious, cunning, mischievous and everything that makes him so much more interesting than all the other characters. The Abhorsen Trilogy has such a character as well, although it doesn’t come in the form of an actual human being here. Mogget, the touch of brilliance in this book, is not a human, but a cat. Or at least, he’s a being crafted from Free Magic and trapped into cat form by a collar. Where his true allegiances lie – with the people who bound him to his animal form, the Abhorsens, who he has served faithfully for thousands of years (but only because he had to) – or with the dark side, is a question that’s not answered in this book, and that leaves the readers guessing. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Whether Mogget is doublecrossing Sabriel, whether he has his own secret agenda, or whether he’s actually pretty decent and has grown to like The Abhorsens (or at least Sabriel and her father) remains a mystery, but it does not do anything for Mogget’s coolness. It only adds to the depths of his character. He is hilarious, intelligent, witty, sometimes even downright mean, and I love him all the more for it. A nice bonus is that he’s just so cat-like in his behavior. Sure, he talks, he gives sly remarks to Sabriel when she appears to ask stupid questions, and he has occassional comments about Prince Touchstone, but he also cries for fish all the time, and he bites people to get their attention. You can’t tell me that’s not cat-like.

One of my only concerns with this book though is that it’s promoted as being a young adult fantasy book, but it does rank pretty high on the age-list to be strictly young adult in my opinion. There are no sex scenes or anything, and it doesn’t really get beyond the occassional kiss, but that’s not what’s bothering me in the age-range choice for this book. What bothers me, is the dark subject matter this book deals with. Alright so, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows is pretty dark too, and that’s young adult-oriented as well, but still I can’t help but feel like they’ve missed the mark here. It’s obvious that when Garth Nix wrote this book, he wasn’t aiming it at young adults either. Sure, his main character is barely eighteen years old, but he doesn’t once hesitate to raise the dead from their early graves, to make them bounce around like ragdolls, or to write blood and gore into every scene that could possibly need it. The subjects he addresses are dark and serious as well. The obvious focus point of this book is life and death, the borderline inbetween, the afterlife and everything after that. He doesn’t take death as a laughable subject in his book (the zombies are NOT hilarious, they’re rather scary in fact, death is not the key to some immortal life filled with happiness and joy) and I can’t help but think that this book was aimed more at adults from the start, and was never intended for a young adult public. Nowadays, publishers often think the only reason to promote a book as being ‘adult’ is when there are very graphic sexual scenes in it. Newsflash, that’s not the case. Talking about death and the afterlife, and imagining hordes of zombies taking on the main characters of a book, can be equally disturbing to youngsters as a sex scene in a book. Just saying.

Sabriel does not dissapoint. It’s epic fantasy, but with an entirely new layer added on top of it. There’s something in it for everyone: romance, the occassional drama, a well-developed and thought-through magic system, most impressive world-building mixing elements from the previous century and from “standard” medieval epic fantasy, entertaining characters and one of the most brilliant and well-crafted characters I’ve ever read about. I recommend this book to all fans of epic and dark fantasy, and to everyone whose ready to try out something new. Even if you’ve given up on the fantasy-genre alltogether, convinced that after reading Tolkien you’ve read it all, you still should give Sabriel a chance.

Book Review: Quest of the Demon by M.L. Sawyer

12449303Title: Quest of the Demon
Author: M.L. Sawyer
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Middle Grade
Publisher: Equilibrium Books
Goodreads | Book Depository | Smashwords | Author Website
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by the author.

Darci is a popular sixteen-year-old girl who plays basketball and lives in an ordinary country town. But her life is changed forever when she is accidentally transported to the land of Nahaba by a young apprentice wizard called Taslessian.
Within hours of her unexpected arrival, both teens are thrust into a dangerous journey to the cave of Grisham the Great in the hope that he would be able to send her home.
Upon reaching the cave, however, Darci quickly discovers that there is no such thing as accidents, and that their journey is only just beginning.
The Quest of the Demon has begun.

Quest of the Demon is an epic fantasy story focusing on the trials and aventure of Darci, a sixteen-year-old girl who accidently gets transported to another dimension by an apprentice wizard called Taslessian. Apparently otherworlders are quite rare in the land of Nahaba, and due to the enhanced magic used to bring her to this world, every powerful wizard on the entire planet knows of her existence. That includes the good, like Taslessian’s master, but also the bad in the form of an evil warlock called Domati. After killing Taslessian’s master Belderon, the warlock is soon chasing the apprentice wizard and Darci as they try to reach the home of Grisham, the greatest and most powerful dragon currently alive. The first part of the book focuses on Darci and Taslessian’s journey to Grisham’s lair, which is not without danger. Once they reach the mighty dragon’s home, he tells them that he does not possess the magic to transport Darci back to her own world. On the contrary even, there is an important quest the young wizard and the teenage girl have to complete with the aid of a mighty warrior woman called Defyance, a skillful knight called Maledorian and a banished elf called Lief. Because if they do not complete the quest, the world of Nahaba will perish as the demon Demolish will shed hatred and despair through the world’s inhabitants, and lots of innocent people will die. They have to complete the Quest of the Demon, whatever it takes.

Quest of the Demon is the debut novel by M.L. Sawyer, and it’s a nice debut indeed. The characters are very detailed and well-developed, especially the protagonist Darci and her love interest, Taslessian. The setting is rich in detail and surprisingly original, considering the fact that “a magical world in an alternate dimension” has been done a thousand times before. I like it when authors can grasp a cliché concept and turn it around to be rather original anyway, and M.L. Sawyer has successfully managed to that in this book. The writing style is decent, although not all that unique, and I wish the author would have found her own writing voice in the process. Her style is a bit too clean, too scholastic even, to make a lasting impression.

I thought Darci was very amusing and original character. She doesn’t have the typical reaction most sixteen-year-olds would have when they think there’s a burglar in their house. Rather than getting scared and calling the cops, she grabs a baseball bat and goes to find the culprit. Pretty heroic, if you ask me, and hilarious as well as she is transported to the world of Nahaba wearing her pyjamas and holding a baseball bat in her hands. I was cracking up from laughter by then, imagining just how silly it must be to end up in another dimension while still wearing pyjamas. While quite devestated with ending up in an alternate dimension and worrying if she’s ever going to see her parents again, Darci manages to keep her mind clear. Clear enough not to freak out when the warlock Domati shows up at their doorstep, and clear enough not to believe the Monk Man when he’s infading her mind later on in the story. Although she has no particular talents, not for swordfighting nor for magic, and she needs to depend on others to protect her, Darci doesn’t come across as a helpless damsel in distress. She is actually quite brave, and she fights as well as she can, which obviously isn’t very good – then again, it would be very unlikely for a normal teenager to be able to defeat winged creatures attacking them on a boat, or a hideously-looking monster like Trolog. Draci isn’t a hero because she has the talents of a hero. She’s no extraordinary swordfighter, no exceptionally skilled magician, and she’s actually more troublesome than useful. But she’s a hero because she is brave, willing to fight although she knows she doesn’t stand a chance, and because she’s not too stubborn to rely on others for her own safety. That concept of heroism is quite original, and I applaud M.L. Sawyer choosing an ordinary person as the protagonist of their book, and then keeping her ordinary until the very end, without superpowers or exceptional skills.

My second favorite character was Taslessian. Although he starts off doubtful and wary of his own powers, he mans up soon enough and realizes his true potential in the face of danger. I liked him as a character, but I really loved him when he interacted with Darci. They were so much fun together, with Taslessian blushing as Darci stood in front of him in nothing but a tank top – inappropriate clothing for a girl in Nahaba – and getting all jealous over Lief’s attentions for the otherworlder. It was cute and realistic, and thankfully it wasn’t all that rushed for once. Darci and Taslessian really took the time to get to know each other, first as friends, and then to explore their feelings a bit further. I loved the moment when they kissed – getting drunk and then making out, always a bonus – but I found it equally brilliant when later on, Taslessian acted as if nothing happened, or he may not even have remembered. There is no mention of “true love” like there is in so many other young adult novels, and which is just a crazy concept alltogether, there is only mention of their attraction to each other and that’s that. It makes their relationship even more charming, since they’re not delusional about it. I also loved the fact that Lief had feelings for Darci, bringing her in this awkward position in a love triangle. Now that was really a love triangle well done. Both Lief and Taslessian had equal chances at some point, and I was actually feeling equally confused as Darci was as to who to choose, because I liked both of them.

Now, I have to admit that the concept isn’t all that original. Girl gets transported to alternate dimension, girl meets boy and falls for him, girl and boy need to go on a quest with other heroes to save the world. Been there, done that. What is interesting, is the originality M.L. Sawyer manages to put in this otherwise cliché concept. The world of Nahaba is clearly set in medieval times, and it’s inhabited with all the standard species: elves, humans, dragons. But there’s more. We see warlocks and wizards, evil and good dragons, a world where it’s always winter, flying monsters, Fraries who you have to give sweets so they will do your bidding, and wild beasts called Dahnagas. We see original concepts being mixed with cliché themes, and the result is rather nice.

The light-hearted humor is another reason why Quest of the Demon doesn’t feel cliché when you read it. While the lives of thousands of innocents are at stake, our main characters still find time for some humor and jokes, which really bring a fresh breeze to the book. While Darci is standing in her pyjamas, she desperately wishes she had put on a bra – I can imagine that all girls would feel that way if they were transported to another dimension braless – and she constantly wishes she had nicer clothes to put on. When she has a hole in her pants, Taslessian starts blushing like a mad man. When Darci pulls Taslessian up from the ground, she adds too much strength, and they bump into each other, leading to mad blushes from both sides. This cute, light-hearted humor gives an entire vibe of originality to the book, and to be honest it was about time an author gave an answer to the question what one does when being transported to an alternate dimension in their pyjamas. It is anything but comfortable, I presume. Now I know the answer: you hope that the local town’s magician can provide you with a bra. Thanks, Belderon, for saving damsels in distress and in desperate need of some support. 😉

I must add that I also loved the secondary characters. They each had their own, distinct personality and an interesting history to fit with it. Although we may not know much about the warrior woman Defyance, I sure grasped the concept that she’s not to be messed with. And Maledorian had trouble coming to terms with the fact his father did not love him the way he loved his older brother, although he went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make the old man like him. And then there’s Lief, the mysterious Elf who got banished from his homeland for an unknown reason. Their differences and the fact that they somehow work well together, is what makes these characters remarkably interesting. I found myself eagerly anticipating their next adventures.

That said, if I had to talk about some negative points while reading Quest of the Demon, there was only one that I could come up with. The writing style is too clean. I can’t explain it very well, but it all sounds a bit too scholastic, a bit too edited to sound real and honest, like either the writer hasn’t found her own authentic writing voice yet, or like it’s been edited to the point where it reads more like a school book than an actual novel. Considering that this is my only complaint about the book, it’s not that much of a big deal, but I did find it peculiar.

Quest of the Demon is a fast-paced, action-packed epic fantasy novel with a well-developed plotline and original characters. Darci makes a hilarious protagonist, who is occasionally more worried about the clothes she does or does not wear than about the life-threatening situations at hand, which isn’t all too peculiar considering she’s a sixteen-year-old in the presence of the local apprentice wizard cutie. The romance between Darci and Taslessian is believable and sweet. I really enjoyed reading this book, and I would recommend it to everyone who enjoys epic fantasy and who would like a fresh breeze in the genre. I’m looking forward to the next adventures of our heroes in Tallen: Quest of the Demon – Aftermath One.