It’s Bonus Book Review Saturday, and I’ve got something with a dark fantasy flavor. It’s actually a book I read about a month ago and am only now getting around to reviewing. (Sorry, Megan!)

Sanyare: The Last Descendant (Book 1)

A woman torn between honor and survival…

Raised in a realm where humans are no better than slaves, Rie Lhethannien has struggled for decades to earn a meager post in the High Court messenger service. Even training as an elite fighter isn’t enough to earn the respect she craves. Scorned by the high elves who rely on her loyalty, Rie’s closest allies are the fierce carnivorous pixies who travel by her side.

sanyare-the-last-descendant-cover

When she’s attacked on a routine delivery by assassins from the enemy Shadow Realm, Rie’s martial prowess keeps her alive…and frames her as a traitor. Facing execution at the hand of an unmerciful king, Rie must forsake her oaths and flee into enemy lands to prove her innocence. With surprising help from a bastard prince and an ambitious blood sidhe, Rie searches for the truth behind the attack. The secrets she uncovers may threaten more than her honor or even her life…for war is looming in the nine faerie realms.

My Review: 4 Stars

If I had to describe this book as anything, I’d say it’s “Good, bordering on great”.

From the opening scene, I was intrigued by the character, the world, and everything going on. I LOVED the pixies that hang around Rie—a great use of humor in a mostly dark book.

Rie was a strong, competent character overall, skilled enough to be believable and neither a Mary Sue nor an overly emotional character. There were a few slip-ups with her character and personality traits (her insecurities were an unusual choice, and they came across too strongly for her personality), but overall she was very well-written.

The sequence of events felt a bit odd. At first it felt like a spy book, then it felt more like Drizzt’s return to the Underdark, then it seemed like a book about a new recruit joining a mercenary/military group. I’d have to say it changed the overall tone of the story a bit too much.

But all in all, it was a great read, and I can’t wait to pick up the second book in the series.

Here’s a Taste:

“Before we go in, I should probably warn you, The Crossroads is more than geography.  It’s a meeting place for all fae, an equal opportunity establishment.”

“Meaning?”

“It gets a bit rowdy.”  Braegan grinned, a teasing light in his eyes.  “Try not to piss anyone off, okay?”

Pushing her forward with his arm, Braegan ushered her through the heavy wood gates.  A pea gravel path led the way into a natural bowl amphitheater filled with fae of every description.  The pixies dashed ahead into the crowd while Rie struggled to gather her bearings.  She had never seen so many different creatures gathered in one place.  The noise and smells crowded into her brain, clamoring for attention.

Groups of dark elves, mostly women, sprawled on the grassy hills surrounding the center courtyard, lounging on blankets and looking bored.  Two trolls wearing nothing but leather leggings drank beer out of gallon jugs and pounded their fists on a flat rock while shouting profanities at one another.  One of them burped as Rie passed by, the stench of sour milk sending her stomach into her throat.  A half dozen leprechauns huddled together on the next small rise, smoking long pipes that reeked of something that wasn’t tobacco.

The crowd grew thicker and angrier the closer she got to the center.  Braegan seemed to have no trouble navigating his way through the crush of people, but Rie clutched his arm like a lifeline while trying to watch everyone and everything around her.  Nearing the bowl of the amphitheater, Rie caught sight of the horde’s focus.  Two men fought inside a dirt ring with fists and magic.

“Fight night!”  Braegan’s eyes were wide with excitement, his teeth bared in a gleeful snarl. “And the Commander’s fighting Cendir.  That explains the crowd.”

On the left, a dark elf with mocha skin and uncharacteristic strawberry red highlights in his white hair pulled his arm back and threw a fireball the size of a small goblin at his opponent.  The crowd gasped, watching the dark elf with the more typical black skin and silvery hair face down the flame.  A fraction of a second before impact, the fireball spread out in a wide shield, forcing the dark elf to dodge to the right.   The fire-thrower charged after his creation, but the dark elf was ready, blocking several punches and landing a few of his own.  The crowd cheered every hit.

As they walked around the edge of the ring, Braegan continued his animated explanation.  “The fire elf is Prince Daenor, Commander of the Shadow Guard, and the dark elf is Cendir, the Queen’s brother and Daenor’s technical second in command.  They don’t get along too well.”

“Why not?”

“Prince Daenor fought and defeated Cendir in a fight just like this one about twenty years ago, taking over as Commander.  Cendir’s been trying to take it back ever since.”

Rie pursed her lips, considering.  In the High Court, leadership positions were chosen by the king, usually granted to his toadies. She wondered if this system wasn’t a little more fair, even if it still didn’t seem to grant power to the people that truly deserved it.

Rie couldn’t take her eyes off the mocha-skinned elf.  Wearing only black trousers, the man was a master at hand-to-hand combat.  Wiry muscles glinted in the blue wisp-light, his abs bunched and contracted as he lunged into a whirling series of kicks aimed at the silver-haired elf’s head.

“Why fight here?” Rie asked.

“Entertainment.  Once a month, give or take, the Shadow Guard holds a fight night here at the Crossroads.  Fighters interested in joining use it as an audition, and there are hierarchy fights for those already under contract.  They used to do it at guard headquarters, but as it turns out, people like to watch, and the crowds got too big to fit into their practice arena, especially on nights when Daenor has a match.”

Catching the prince’s leg, Cendir threw him to the ground.  The fire-thrower rolled, coming up to his feet near the barrier as Rie and Braegan walked by.  He caught her gaze and held it for a moment, just long enough for Rie’s heartbeat to race and for Cendir to land a kick to Daenor’s head.  Rebounding off the barrier, the prince flicked a small missile at Cendir, who dodged to the side and out of the way. The two came together in a vicious tangle of limbs until the prince pushed Cendir into the opposite edge of the arena.

Rie couldn’t take her eyes off the fight.  Even injured, with blood slicking down his face, the fire-thrower moved with grace and speed that could only be honed by centuries of practice.  His technique was perfect, his speed and agility superior to anything she’d seen before.  His body flowed from one form to another, incorporating multiple fighting styles with precision.  Overwhelmed, the silver-haired elf finally fell to the ground. He breathed, but would require a powerful healer.

Tearing her attention away from the arena, Rie followed Braegan to a covered patio that housed a massive stacked stone bar, serving customers of every description.  Six bartenders of different races — including a troll and two leprechauns, who carried stools to reach the bottles and serve customers — served the guests who pushed and shoved against each other in an attempt to get a drink.  Accent lighting under the shelves and along the edge of the bar provided a soft glow that illuminated the area without damaging the customer’s night vision.

Keeping Rie tucked into his side, Braegan squeezed into an empty space near the troll.  At Braegan’s wave, the troll nodded, finished unloading the tray of drinks and food, and lumbered over.

“What’ll ye be having?”

About the Author:

Legend has it I was born with a book in my hands. Thirty-ish years later, I’m a stay-at-home-mom who prefers a good story over doing the dishes. Only now, I’m building my own fantasy worlds! Sanyare: The Last Descendant is my first published novel, but the sequel, Sanyare: The Heir Apparent, is set to release on September 21, 2016. I am also the Program Director of O.C. Writers, A Network of Published and Aspiring Authors, located in Orange County, CA.

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sanyare-Last-Descendant-Universe-Book-ebook/dp/B00ROBHMFY/

Visit her website: www.meganhaskell.com!

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