4 out of 4 stars
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We Are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies is the first book in a high fantasy series by Matthew Tysz.
Galen Bray is an emigrant from the war-torn Land of Princes, seeking refuge in the prosperous kingdom of Voulhire. Having secured passage to the great nation to collect his inheritance from his estranged uncle, Galen is at first ecstatic at the prospect of starting a new, quiet life in the quaint town his uncle had resided in. But the land of Voulhire is riddled with lore and mystery, and Galen soon finds himself in the midst of an adventure of greater consequence than he could ever have imagined.
Meanwhile, evil forces are lurking under the surface of this utopia. Lord Eldrus has recently become the lord of Hillport, a small town with a troubling past and little hope. While the king of the land remains preoccupied with political turmoil at the capital, Eldrus takes it upon himself to increase the town’s economic prospects and bring hope back to the townspeople. Old wounds remain, however, and the forces that once haunted the town are reluctant to remain in the past.
A good fantasy novel always requires good worldbuilding, and this novel certainly delivered. Voulhire is a well-thought-out world, as the author takes care to detail the history, religion, political system, magic, and economics of the kingdom. As the readers, we are not simply told how the world functions but instead are gradually introduced to each aspect of it as the story develops. Something that specifically helped the worldbuilding along was the multiple different perspectives that the novel is told from. Instead of focusing solely on Galen, the immigrant, we also get to hear from an outcast, a rebel, multiple people in powerful positions, and even the king. This allows us to experience the realm from each of their perspectives and then gain our own perspective of the world in relation to the story.
The multiple points of view were also beneficial in establishing a complex plot. Many fantasy novels focus either on an internal threat or an external one, but A New Arrival under Great Skies does both. All of the characters in the book have their own storylines with separate conflicts, some of which are outside forces endangering the kingdom while others are internal struggles that the characters face. This keeps the plot of the story from becoming conveniently simple, and instead makes the story a complex one filled with political intrigue and multiple antagonists. The only fault I find with the plot is Galen’s storyline, which was rather boring compared to the other characters’. I can see how his story may become important in later books, but I was unpleasantly surprised that the weakest plotline was the one following the main character.
My only other complaint about the novel is regarding the characters. Most of the main characters have a likable quality to them, which makes them easy characters to root for. However, I would have preferred to see some dynamic personalities to them besides those charming aspects, especially in perpetually-cheerful Galen. Even the villains of the story seem evil for evil's sake, and I sincerely wanted to have an understanding of the other side’s motivations and justifications.
Overall, I had a wonderful time reading this novel, and I am sure any fellow fantasy readers will as well. I would advise against younger audiences reading this book, however, as it contains many instances of profanity. Though there were a few aspects of the story that I think could have been improved on, my enjoyment of the novel greatly outweighs my reservations, to the extent that I did not even notice them until after finishing the novel. Because of these reasons, and because I found the book to be well-edited, I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
We are Voulhire: A New Arrival under Great Skies
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