Title: Road of a Warrior
Author: R. K. Lander
Book Blurb from Goodreads: A light in the forest, a king returned, a past to claim …
Fel’annár is an immortal half-blood warrior from the Deep Forest, an orphan whose questions were never answered. With a dream of becoming a Silvan captain in an army ruled by the Alpine elves, he is sent to protect a prince of the realm on a journey to Tar’eastór, land of the mighty Alpine elves and of Fel’annár’s own father – whoever he was.
His nascent powers that emerged during his first patrol as a novice warrior will continue to evolve as his shrouded past finally surfaces. The truth he never thought to hear will thrust him onto a path strewn with political intrigue, discrimination, danger and self-discovery.
Meanwhile, a failing king will rise from the ashes of grief and reclaim his place as leader of the Great Forest. Warriors will battle the enemy on the borders, while at court, councillors will clash over the racial divide that is pulling them apart.
They say that civil war is coming, but one elf can avoid it – if he can embrace his past, control his powers and accept the role he is destined to play.
From warrior to master and beyond, Fel’annár is The Silvan who can restore peace in the Great Forest, or cast it into eternal chaos.
Book Review: For full-disclosure purposes, you should know that I served as book coach and editor for this project. For more details on why I feel I can still approach the book unbiased, click here, but the short version is as follows: (1) I use a rubric for my reviews, and even my favorite books don’t always measure up to that, no matter how much I enjoy them. (2) I don’t write my reviews for the benefit of the authors. They’re geared for readers, and while authors can enjoy them and learn from them, what I mention in a review will be something I already mentioned to the authors while working with them, so I have no reason not to share it. It’s not going to be a surprise that “X was problematic” because “X” already came up in coaching and editing. (3). I’m trained to identify and set my bias aside, as much as possible. This is part of what makes me a good editor. If I can’t set aside my personal preference for romance or my lack of fondness for gore and recognize good writing when I see it, then my services are pretty much worthless beyond catching commas. I’m trained to know what makes readers dislike books and what readers look for within their genre and why, even if that’s not something I look for when I read, personally. When I review a book, I review it that way…not just as a “did I enjoy it” but in the vein of “is it an effective book, artistically.”
So here, without further ado, is how Road of a Warrior stacks up:
Narration: 4 out of 5. The narration is sweeping, artistic, and epic, just like the world and the story. It captures the feel of Fel’annár’s travels, the way the lands change as he climbs the mountains and what he and the other characters feel as they experience it—how they interpret it, whether they see it as beautiful or threatening, and what metaphors they use when interpreting it.
It’s fantastic narration, but there are times when it gets confusing, when the description and scene transitions, while dramatic, aren’t helpful in following the story. It becomes more poetry than useful prose, and in those moments, I feel it detracts from the story.
Content: 4 out of 5. The content of this book was more varied than book one, where we mostly just saw everything from Fel’annár’s point of view. Like that book, there are moments of battle (and very well done battle-sequences, though at times briefly disorienting) and times of thoughtful reflection and playful character interaction.
Once again, the issues of racism and colonization are central, but it’s beautifully and thoughtfully presented, to where neither side is faultless. There are dark- and light-skinned elves, and, in this book, we get to see the strength of the elvish women at last. There is even a bit of romance in this one (yay!), but the antagonists’ threads were left underdeveloped. We just don’t get to know that much about what they’re doing while everything else is going on, though we finally do get to meet some of the villains.
Characters: 5 out of 5. The book shines in this department. The characters feel…well, not human, since they’re elves, but alive, realistic, and believable, and we get to meet more of them this time. We get to know Fel’annár’s friends in ways that didn’t happen in Book One while learning more about Lainon, the king, Councillor Aradan, and Crown Prince Rinon, and we get to understand them, both past and present.
I particularly like how the story doesn’t revolve around Fel’annár alone. He may be the gifted one, but the other characters have their own strengths, and Fel’annár isn’t the source of all power, wisdom, ideas and knowledge. He needs the other characters, and they need him, in a beautiful, interelational way. It’s delightful and, next to the artistry of the narration, the characters are one of the most enjoyable parts of the story.
Artwork: Subjective. Personally, I love how the cover incorporates elements of the new, second version of the cover for Book One while clearly looking like a different book. Fel’annár looks older and more dangerous in this, which fits, as he’s now a warrior and not just a novice, and I like the hint at his gift with the green haze in his right hand.
World-Building: 5 out of 5. This was another area where the book was just about as perfect as a story can get. We not only got to understand Fel’annár’s gift more over the course of the book, but we were able to learn more about elven culture and customs and spiritual beliefs. After this book, I finally feel like I know enough to understand why the elves act the way they do, my lingering questions and confusions from Book One answered and explained away, though I know we’ve only begun to explore this varied, rich world.
Overall Response: 18 out of 20, or 4.5 overall. The story is delightful, the characters genuine, and the narration gloriously artistic. If you like epic fantasy and tales of action, adventure, intrigue, and deep friendship set in a rich, powerful literary world, you’ll want to pick up this book.
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Copyright 2017 Andrea Lundgren
Cover image used by permission from the author