3 out of 4 stars
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This book tells the story of a young boy who escapes the chaotic and war-torn land of his birth to start a fresh life in the land of Voulhire. It is written from the point of view of the central character Galen Bray opens up by explaining the circumstances of his birth land which he is trying to escape. Galen's homeland is muddled in war as its four princes prepare to fight to take their father's throne. Galen consequently leaves his home in search of a better life. He heads for the country of Voulhire where he has just discovered that he has an Uncle who has an inheritance waiting for him. Upon his arrival, he signs the necessary papers and is given the deed to a house, his Uncle's forge, and a letter. A letter that sees Galen thrust into the reality of his new home, its tensions, and the looming danger. The story then goes on to narrate how Galen decides to apply himself to ensure that Voulhire never falls into the same circumstances as the land he left.
There's a lot I liked about this book. It had all the right elements: fantasy, magic, danger, action and much more. With all these elements, it is very easy to get things wrong. However, Matthew Tysz has managed to put together a perfectly written story while using these elements in a very intentional and tactful manner. All the major characters in the book – Galen, Rowan, King Wilhelm, Lord Eldus, the Riva Rohavi, the imprisoned and powerful wizard – were well written and utilized for as much as they were useful to the story. There are no fluff words in this story. I especially love how Tysz plunges the reader directly into the story so the excitement starts early on in the text. In the first chapter of the book, Tysz tactfully sets the foundation of the entire story by describing the circumstances of Galen's homeland, the Lands of the Princes, while also giving a brief insight into the country of Voulhire and its cities. I like that to achieve this foundational part of the story, he introduced a minor character to do all the talking in lieu of it coming from the author's mouth.
This writer is definitely at home with fiction writing. His style of writing is not mechanical; it is imaginative in its description if that makes any sense. Some of my favorite phrases from the book include "the war dragged, like fingernails cracking in the dirt...", and "...the sullen heads around me rose like an alley full of stray cats". You simply can't read this story without being compelled to draw a mental picture in your mind of the scenes and circumstances he is describing.
In We Are Voulhire: A New Arrival Under Great Skies, the author avoids using absolute contemporary English since the story is set in the 'way back when' era. The map at the beginning of the book is also a nice touch, a way to get a sense of the geographical locations where different parts of the story happen. This book also contains no errors that I could identify. Maybe I was just too engrossed in the story to notice but that doesn't change the fact that the text was professionally edited.
Besides a few skirmishes, this was an all-around good read for me. Some of the things I disliked about the book was the cover design. I can't put it any other way than to just say that it was terrible. It shows a boy clad in 21st-century dressing and overlooking what looks every bit like a modern city. This is even more confusing when you read the summary of the book and discover that the story is set in an era hundreds of years before the 21st century. It is discouraging, to say the least. Also, the ending of the book didn't gladen my heart but then again, this is the first installment in the We Are Voulhire book series, so I'm hoping the sequel picks up where this one left off.
It took me a while to start on this book as it was listed in the teen/hound adult category. But I'm a lover of fantasy and epic stories so I eventually got myself to read it. A few chapters in and I was kicking myself for sitting on such a good story for so long. I wholeheartedly give this book a rating of 3 out of 4 stars, because it would be obviously evil to give it anything less. It is an excellent story written by an excellent author. I would advise though, that he completely scraps the current cover design and replace it with something compatible with the story as the design is misleading and part of the reason I didn't start the book immediately I got it.
Matthew Tysz's work deserves a literary award and regardless of the book's category, I would recommend this book to anyone, young and old. It will take you on a journey that is as exciting as it is satisfactory. Anyone would be done with this book in a jiffy but not because it's a short read, but because you won't be able to peel your eyes away from its pages. I can't wait to get my hands on the second book.
We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies
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