Book Review: The Gift-Knight’s Quest

newcover by Dylan Madeley

Excerpt from Goodreads: Welcome to Kensrik, a world vividly imagined by Dylan Madeley, in which his debut fantasy novel The Gift-Knight’s Quest is set. His book follows the youngest descendants of two families that have traditionally been enemies: the Kenderleys, who now rule the world’s largest empire, and the Wancyeks, who have been reduced to common status.

“Chandra had yet to fathom why Jonnecht could not have lived and ruled for many long years, or why it was so urgent that she ascend immediately.” 

Chandra never asked to rule Kensrik, but fate took a strange course. Known as a usurper and sorceress by most and traumatised by all that has transpired, she is forced to make use of the few loyal allies she has in order to hold together her restless empire. In an attempt to identify and defeat the conspirators who inadvertently landed her in power, Chandra risks putting the lives of many in mortal danger, as well as her own. 

Derek is an aimless wanderer – the youngest in a lineage that has long fallen from nobility. He finds himself summoned by tradition to serve a family historically considered his bitter enemy. As he journeys down the same path a fateful ancestor once travelled, he struggles with personal demons and begins to reconsider his loyalty to the mission. 

Duke Lenn found one true cause in love and it cost him everything. His legacy shaped the present in which Chandra and Derek find themselves. Now their choice will shape the future of Kensrik… 

The Gift-Knight’s Quest is set in a new and vividly imagined world, written with delicate prose that will allow the reader to explore with their imagination. Inspired by authors such as Michael Moorcock, J. G. Ballard and Roger Zelazny, it will appeal to fans of fantasy and historical fiction

Book Review: This may be one of the most unique works I’ve ever reviewed. It is fantasy, and it has strong characters; I particularly liked Chandra and her captain of the guards. It is rich in detail, and comes very close to being an amazing book, but a couple problems make it just a little “off.” So here’s a look at the Narration, Content, Characters, Artwork, World-Building and my Overall Response.   

Narration: Three out of Five. This is one of the novels strengths, yet it’s weaknesses brought down the overall score. It has great immediate details, in moments. The body language and choice of dialogue all works together to build a compelling picture of what is going on in the scenes.

And yet the scenes feel disjointed. The narration uses an omniscient narrator, so we know almost everyone’s perspective and feelings in a scene, but in many ways, it comes off a dilution of the plot. We get a little of everyone and thus, we lose the strength of picking a point of view and seeing everything through that person’s eyes. The narrator doesn’t guide us adequately through what is happening, and thus, we know too much and too little, all at the same time.

Content: Three out of Five. This is another “mixed” category. On one hand, the content is appropriate; we get to experience the intrigue, the points of view from all the main characters, and the level of action, romance, and sexuality is appropriate to a YA audience (slight spoiler: there was no romance, only hints that things might go somewhere, someday, which I thought was very good. I was worried that it might be otherwise–too fast and too much–but it managed to stick to realistic pacing in that department).

But on the other hand, there is too much rich content for the story’s good. We spend a great deal of time with Derek’s homeland, before he has a purpose in life, just wandering around. There are flashbacks to the conflict that created the blood-fued between Derek and Chandra’s families, but frequently, I had trouble remembering whether it was the past or present and why it mattered at all. A lot of page time was given to the king, the queen, and the transgender crown from another country, yet, in the end, none of them had that much to do with the plot.

Characters: Four out of Five. This is the purest strength in the book, and where I really felt I got glimpses of the amazing book that almost is, but not quite. So many characters were well-rounded; you even felt like the side characters were interesting and had complete lives, entire personalities and histories.

Chandra, for example, is a well-drawn introvert who thoughtfully works her way through the problems of her nation, which is tottering on the brink of war, tyranny, and democracy, and yet she isn’t perfect. She is afraid of horses. She isn’t an amazing fighter, and she wasn’t groomed for her position. Overall, she’s a strong woman without being a superwoman, and I really enjoyed reading about her and the other characters who were equally human, in feel and mannerism.

Artwork: Subjective The cover image and title make you think that the entire novel is going to be about Derek, the Gift-Knight, and his quest to do…something. I think it would’ve been more accurate to feature Chandra on the cover, because the book is primarily about her. Yes, it does include Derek’s journey to find himself and his purpose, but most of the page time is spent on Chandra and her problems, yet the cover doesn’t reflect this.

World-Building: Three out of Five. Again, I’m torn in this category. On one hand, the world was imaginative and detailed, but because we weren’t guided through it in a way that made it flow, it felt like something was missing. For example, we spend a great deal of time discussing the Crown of Suur-Linnus’ country and yet, none of this ties into the plot after the first half.

It seemed we were introduced to entire pockets of culture only to leave them, never to come back, and it felt like there was so much richness that we weren’t getting to see and explore, taste and feel. But the fictional world of The Gift-Knight’s Quest is rich and feels real, and it is setup for a sequel. We just need the narrator or author to let us dwell in it a little bit more.

Overall Response: 13 out of 20, or 3.25 overall. Despite the low overall score, this book contained some of my favorite characters of all the books I’ve recently read and reviewed. I would recommend it to those who enjoy a realistic version of political intrigue and power, without the glamor that is sometimes used or focused on. While there are such things as fancy balls and other ceremonies hinted at in the novel, we primarily experience ordinary moments of people being people, and that’s what I most enjoyed about this book.

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Copyright 2016 Andrea Lundgren

Cover used by permission from the author

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Gift-Knight’s Quest

  1. Thanks for the review.

    The cover became a back-and-forth process. This mockup will show you something like what was my original idea. We had a great difficulty getting Chandra’s ethereal face right over a few iterations.

    rough cover

    Then my eventual compromise was to focus on one character at a time, which moved Chandra to the cover of the second book, seen here, which I also preferred as a book.

    Feb 20 Book 2 Revision

    Alathea, who got just about no face-time in the first book but gets introduced in the second, then should rightfully own the third cover in the series.

    Rona Dijkhuis, long time friend from the webcomics world, got in on the Kickstarter for TGKQ and is now quite intensely into digital painting, and we have an agreement that any other editions could have any other covers, but the first editions being revealed self-published through services can have these covers.

    Just a bit of cover-art history if you were curious. Thanks again for taking the time to review the book.


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