4 out of 4 stars
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King’s Envoy by Cas Peace is book one in the Artesans of Albia fantasy trilogy. Original and wrought, the novel excels in world building and character development. There are five magical realms where Artesans hold more or less important social positions. Artesans are persons born with the ability to control metaforce and master the four primal elements: Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. A group of such Artesans of various ranks stands at the center of the beautifully crafted story in King’s Envoy.
Taran Elijah lives in a village in the Loxton Province of Albia, the Fourth Realm. He is 28 years old and a Journeyman, the third of the nine Artesan ranks. Three years have passed since Taran lost his father, who was an Adept, and taught him everything he could in terms of magical powers. With no other Artesans in Albia to teach him further, Taran decides to create a portway through the Veils and travel to Andaryon, the realm of a warlike race characterized by eyes with slit pupils. If he challenges an Andaryan Artesan to duel and wins, or even forces a draw, he can ask for any prize. Knowledge and the opportunity to have a tutor will be Taran’s choices. Little does he know about the different plans destiny has for him.
At first, the third-person narrator focuses on Taran and his adventures. However, after only a few chapters, readers have the chance to meet Major Sullyan, an amazing woman having the rank of Master-elite and influencing the lives of all those around her. She becomes the vital force of the novel. Henceforth, the entire plot development is governed by the characters’ reactions to whatever happens to her. The presence of a strong female protagonist does not impinge on Taran’s initiation journey, though.
What I liked most about the novel was the author’s ability to portray a wide range of relatable and realistic characters. Taran is not a typical hero. At times, he feels insecure and makes mistakes; he regrets some of his actions, and even thinks of giving up his powers. A foundling, Sully is also an unlikely heroine. Her physical frailty and extraordinary beauty do not help her in a world dominated by men. With an incredible strength of character, she learns to control her powers all by herself. Refusing to be a victim, she turns the odds in her favor. Secondary and episodic characters are well-built too. I admired Captain Robin Tamsey’s courage and Bull’s loyalty. Conversely, I hated Sonten’s scheming plots or Duke Rykan’s ruthless behavior.
The narrator swiftly moves from one scene or character to another. Tension builds up gradually. Scenes such as Taran’s duel against Jaskin keep readers at the edge of their seats. Although the action takes place only in Albia and Andaryon, there are also references to the other three realms: Endomir, the land of the itinerant Roamerlings; Sinnia, the land of highly gifted musicians and storytellers, and Relkor, the land of slave raiders. Skillful at world building, Cas Peace gives full rein to her imagination. As readers, we fall under her spell, and join the characters in their journey from one mysterious realm to another. I absolutely enjoyed the author’s attention to details. A teacher of equitation herself, Cas Peace shows her love of horses in the descriptions of the protagonists’ animal companions, especially of Mandias, Sully’s wild stallion. Similarly, her passion for folk singing is reflected in the folk songs included in her fantasy books and downloadable from her website.
Fans of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings fantasy series will definitely be delighted by this story. The book includes maps and descriptions of the five realms and a glossary of both Albian and Andaryan characters. A list of magical terms and of Artesan ranks and their attributes makes readers more comfortable with the world of the novel. Those who don’t like cliffhanger endings might be disappointed by the last chapters. As far as I am concerned, I can’t wait to continue reading the next books in the trilogy, King’s Champion and King’s Artesan.
For a well-written fantasy story, my rating for this novel is 4 out of 4 stars. Despite its almost 400 pages, I only found four minor editing errors consisting of wrong punctuation and two instances of missing infinitive particle. There is nothing I disliked about King’s Envoy. Apart from all the other reasons, I wholeheartedly recommend it not only to fans of fantasy fiction, but also to all those who love an exciting tale. The author manages to wonderfully blend fantasy and the thrill of adventure with a touch of romance and the search for personal development.
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