4 out of 4 stars
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The Tail of the Order of the Blue Maiden by Al Romero is a solid 69 chapters long fantasy book that probably will achieve cult classic status in the near future.
In it, we get to meet Mieu Notra, who is a beautiful blue-haired red-eyed feisty young sorceress from an exotic far-away land, on a quest to free her god from torturous binding and captivity. When Mieu's horrible and powerful grandmother tricks her and reveals plans to marry her off to her worst enemy, she luckily manages to break free and escape with the help of the Seventh Day Bandits, a band of former killers and robbers, who have decided to change their ways by becoming instead quite resourceful thieves. Now they also just try to knock their victims unconscious before robbing them blind.
Ayan is a lowly servant mouse boy from a family with a big secret. He blunders around fulfilling his everyday chores but, in his heart, he is desperate to try and prove himself worthy of honorable knighthood and achieving somethings bigger and better with his life. When the menacing god from legends, Griol, appears to him through violent visions and offers him a quest and Mieu as a reward for completing it, he sets out on the road with his newfound friends Jon and Earon. Rather soon, to his chagrin, Ayan of course finds out that Mieu is no dainty damsel in distress and has no warm feelings towards anyone who views her as one.
Ayan and Mieu face many difficult ethical questions during their quest and they must decide who they trust and what is the most important thing to fight and to live for. Through the wild and inhospitable territory, they push their way through enemy ranks, discover a mysterious castle that grants wishes and brings life to their nightmares and find out that every legend is based on a little bit of truth and a whole lot of wishful fiction.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars because it has quite obviously been written with love and hard labor. The massive backstory shines through all the events and gives it importance and epic story structure that a good fantasy is all about. Ayan is relatable and through his slowly expanding worldview we get to see everything as new and unpredictable too. At the start reader gets to catch tantalizingly only glimpses of everything that is at stake. Mieu, as a character, might be moody but she is also strong and fearless, which makes her likable even when she acts out.
What starts out as an almost standard fantasy set-up, gathers speed rather quickly to flip everything onto its head, with dimensional wormhole travel experiences worthy of Dr. Strange and gory visions of demons, gods and angels, who give the ones in the Dr. Who series run for their money. Still in the end, everything finds its place and in retrospect I found appreciation for many scenes that managed to confuse me at the time of their reading.
I recommend this to anyone who has ever loved the Redwall Series by Brian Jacques because this fantasy world is inhabited similarly by animals with human characteristics and values, who fight for a better world and against the tyrants who try to rule it. And this is a good find also for those who want their stories to be unpredictable, intelligent and somewhat colorfully chaotic.
The Tail of the Order of the Blue Maiden
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