War of the Staffs
Book #1 of 2
Steve Stephenson & K.M. Tedrick
Black Rose Writing, Jul 2016
367 pages, Kindle, paperback
My apologies for this long-overdue review. The fact that this book was provided by the publisher and that I am apologizing for its tardy review have absolutely no impact on my review. My review is an honest one based on my reading of the manuscript provided and the total enjoyment I got out of the experience.
The cover is almost comic book art like in its dramatic confrontation between the dragon and the man with the staff below him. The colors of the background lend to the drama making it all seem rather otherworldly. I’m not sure if this would draw my attention or not. Typically, I am drawn to more polished covers, but this will certainly catch the attention of young fantasy readers. Besides, there is a lovely golden dragon and a wizard with an evil red fire that shoots from his staff in the story.
The story has lots of elements of Tolkein’s The Hobbit and LOTR. We have dwarves and elves as well as wizards and orcs. There are nasty things that live down in the deep dark underworld and things that come from other worlds. There are gods loose in these worlds as well. We’ve got it all here. And almost everyone has a little or a lot of magic, except the humans. Well, even they do if they have a magical sword or something like that.
It seems like about half of the characters are of some royal family or other, but no one seems too puffed up about being royal. They just go about their lives doing the jobs they’ve been assigned and getting along with people for the most part. There’s the Parthian royal family with three sons. The father, the King, thinks he’s in charge. He’s sent Prince Kaleb, his oldest, to the Parthian lancers and he’s now a captain. Prince Timmons, his middle son, he sent off to become a master trader and he’s done very well. Now, he has plans for his youngest, Prince Tarquin, to become the ambassador to the Elven Court. Not exactly the life his weapons-crazy youngest son has in mind. Nor is it the life others need him to take up. Tarquin’s cousin and childhood buddy, Alonz, is abruptly killed. He’s killed because Taza, a vampire warlock expelled from another world wants to create peace on Muiria by making everyone a vampire. However, there is a prophecy about the young royal stopping him. He sends an assassin, Despres, to kill Prince Tarquin, but Alonz is killed in a case of mistaken identity. Despres is the nephew of the King of illannan elves, cousin to the King’s daughter, Morganna. The King is a staunch follower of Taza, but his daughter is rebelling against Taza’s plan to convert her people to vampirism. The King has put a price on Morganna’s head and Despres is the assassin determined to bring her down. He comes close to being successful. However, Morganna has a watchful god looking out for her and with his help and much effort on her own part, eventually, she and Prince Tarquin connect and realize that they should be working together to stop this evil. Throughout this all is our hero wizard, Celedant. Celedant is a very powerful wizard with friends in many high and low places who is determined to beat this evil.
The characters are developed as needed. The primary characters are, of course, more well-rounded than the minor characters. But the authors have done great things with characters as well as action and description. You see everything and get to know everyone in this book. It’s great. It’s the type of book I really enjoy with its description of everyone so that I can see them all. You know what color hair everyone has and who has a beard or mustache or is bald. You know who is skinny or fat, and in this story, it makes a big difference. Certain races just aren’t skinny. Only slaves are skinny, so skinny assistants are suspect. They could be spies rather than real countrymen.
I found the pace and the tension worked well for the story. There were times when I wanted to meander along and it did. But there were most times when the story charged on into the next crisis or the next battle. Getting through the underworld about had me skipping pages to cheat and find out what happened when they got to the gate, but I stuck it out and stayed patient. Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because I was dying to get there and I almost couldn’t take another problem in the dark tunnels! And they were creepy! Lots of description to creep you out!
But this is a really fun fantasy with lots of great types of “people” and creatures and magic. Lots of wonderful artifacts from long ago. A prophecy to keep safe or break, a handsome young prince, and a valiant young princess. No, no romance in this book. But I’m ready for book 2, Wraith Lords of Zeiglon 295 pages.
Highly recommended to YA or Adult Fantasy readers.