4 out of 4 stars
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The Hunter’s Gambit by Nicholas McIntire is the first book in The Archanium Codex epic fantasy series featuring Aleksei Drago, a young boy living with his father. His mother died when he was small, and now he works on the farm with his dad to make ends meet. When destiny calls him, Aleksei knows he has to respond, and Aleksei’s dad knows he has to let him go.
This is the story of a boy who is unaware of just how important he will become to the kingdom. Wars will be fought in his name, and destinies will be altered at his command. In a world full of magic where angels and demons are very real, Aleksei has to stop evil from destroying everything he holds dear before it’s too late.
I liked the idea of the Archanium used by the Magi to draw power from as the magic system in the story. The world-building was complex, and the mages and warriors, along with angels, demons, and magical forest creatures made the world full, vibrant, and dangerous.
However, what I most loved about the book was Aleksei’s character arc. Initially, he was just a simple boy who had no bigger dreams in life than going to the nearest town once or twice a month to meet his friends. Once he began his journey up north, his transformation into the hero he would become was swift and methodical. I liked how he embraced his newfound powers, abilities, and role to play. Others would have struggled for much longer to cope in the new world, but not Aleksei. He took charge right away and never showed doubt or fear, even when there was a price to pay for his boldness. New epic fantasy writers who want to learn about a clear character arc progression could easily improve their approach by reading this book.
The second main character, Jonas, was also a favorite, at least in the beginning; however, as Aleksei slowly grew both in strength and charisma, you could see Jonas changing too. From that powerful, commanding prince, he slowly turned into a meek domestic partner who obeyed Aleksei’s wishes and orders, and I found it strange that their roles became so reversed.
Still, for a debut author, this was a well-written novel. The writing style with the fast-paced narrative kept me hooked on the story, the dialogue was never boring, and the action was almost non-stop. While reading, I recalled just how much I adore epic fantasy. Brandon Sanderson, with his Mistborn series, is one of my favorite fantasy authors, and The Hunter’s Gambit slightly reminded me of Sanderson’s majestic work.
While I found around ten grammatical errors, I expected many more mistakes in a book of some 700 pages, so the proper editing was a pleasant surprise. The language choice was perfect for the genre, and the major events, including the battles and escapes, were well presented. Thus, I award The Hunter’s Gambit 4 out of 4 stars and recommend it to lovers of epic fantasy with interesting magic, likable characters, and evil antagonists. The romance between the main characters is clean. There is nothing heavier in the book than kisses and cuddles; however, it does involve two males as partners. I know that there are people who are not comfortable reading books featuring M/M romance, thus my additional warning. Still, the scenes are respectfully done, so I can also recommend the book to young adults who read fantasy novels.
The Hunter’s Gambit
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