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Fantasy, adventure and a horse called Dave!

Recommended to me by a friend, I thought I'd give this a read.

As a hobbyist blacksmith, the blurb certainly caught my attention. I found the sentence about them drinking, dancing and fighting a strange combination of activities, perhaps a reflection of the writer’s personality and humour. However, I do feel it would have been better if the 'unlikely allies' were not named, a horse called Dave should be left as a gem for the reader to discover!

After reading the prologue I was left with a feeling of optimism and genuine interest for this story, despite the dark and despairing tone the writer had set in this section. My curiosity was piqued and I wanted to know how this shadow-man character came to be in such a situation. So, I read on.

I found chapter 1 engaging. I particularly like the advice given to the protagonist, Ryden, by Tristan the village cobbler. Induced into a sedate and relaxed state of mind by the tranquil setting of Cadmir, I was jolted from this approximately half way through the chapter and left slightly anxious. I found this to be a clever and subtle technique employed by the writer. The slow and gentle pace of the book continues until chapter 4, whereafter the tone changes and the sense of adventure begins.

There are conspicuous influences of Shakespeare and Tolkien in parts, particularly chapter 12. The descriptive writing is very good in many places, and I think it's clear that the author has done their research on archery and horsemanship. There are one or two places where I was left questioning the accuracy of technical details, relating to areas other than the aforementioned, and I’d like to see more technical depth relating to mechanical aspects, particularly blacksmithing - the occupation of the protagonist.

I found the characters to be well written and engaging, especially Ryden, which is what you really want from a protagonist. The only character I found difficult to understand, on occasion, was John, and his relationship with his grandfather, Balenor. John was sometimes rude to his grandfather, a person for which he seemed to respect. Perhaps this is not such an uncommon behavioural trait, but in my experience it was slightly contradictory and enough to make me question John’s character.

The chapters seemed to flow quite nicely. I wonder if chapter titles would be useful for setting the scene? The only problem I had was with the intro of John and Balenor in chapter 8, which I found to be a little sudden. It was a little difficult for me when the story alternated between Ryden’s and their’s too quickly to enable me to digest these new characters in the way I would have liked.

There are quite a few clichés used in this book. Most of them are fine, some are very funny indeed, however, some are tolerable, and some are questionable. There seem to be a lot of colloquialisms, mostly very familiar to me. I don’t mind this whatsoever as it makes it seem like the writer is somebody I would know. The humour of the writer is intriguing. It’s an unusual style, but I like it because it’s a style that one would seldom encounter and it lends the writer distinction.

I think the grammar is excellent in most places, with only the occasional ‘Ok’, instead of ‘OK’, and the use of the plural past tense instead of the singular on one occasion. I would question the punctuation in a handful of places, but apart from these very minor niggles both the punctuation and grammar are really very good. I don’t like to read a story riddled with poor punctuation and grammar, and to my pleasure this has not been the case with this work.

Despite reading this some time ago, only now am I providing written feedback. Fortunately, I still had my notes, which were made at the time of first reading. I therefore expect that some of the minor issues I had with this story have been smoothed-out. Although I don’t often find myself reading this genre, I found it very enjoyable. I think it caters to both regular readers of the genre, and to those who are less familiar with adventure/fantasy novels. On this basis I would recommend this title to anyone. I feel a sequel is clearly warranted.

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