Book 1 of Legends of Windemere
I have to begin this review by saying that I haven’t read much self-published stuff (too many books in my book pile as it is!), but when the lovely Ionia at “Readful Things” reblogged a fantasy book giveaway hours after she was the first person to “follow” my blog, I thought that it was simply serendipitous that I read it.
Beginning of a Hero, the debut novel of author Charles Yallowitz, follows the story of Luke Callindor, a young warrior half-elf with a famous name, desperate to prove his merits on his own terms. He becomes embroiled in a plot to assassinate the heir to the Kingdom, not only needing to locate the heir but also the assassin. His journey brings him face to face with poisonous snakes, cyclopes, spadixes, a very nasty Hellfire elf, and the evil Lich who controls it.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, this novel has more fantasy tropes than you can hurl a fireball at. Elves, halflings and gnomes, kick-ass warrior babes, dragons, drites, dwarves, gods and goddesses, warrior priests, even zombies get a mention. Yallowitz writes in present tense, which is slightly off-putting at first, but by 50 pages in you won’t even notice. The result is a D&D style novel, with plenty of action, fight scenes that feel like they’re happening in front of you and recognisable and enjoyable characters.
And its with characters that Yallowitz excels. Whilst Luke plays the role of moody teenage boy admirably, its his off-siders who really steal the show. Wait until you meet the drite, Fizzle. He is so cute, I want to eat him. There are plenty of humorous moments too, which imbue the book with lighter feel, and break up the fight scenes.
As I mentioned before, this is a self-published work, and as such, you’d expect to find some elements that aren’t quite as honed as a traditionally published novel. For me, that was the constant monologues of the characters. To ensure there were no plot holes, the author sometimes includes too much information, explaining in minute detail the inner workings of the character’s mind, which slows down the pace of the novel. Particularly about a third of the way through I felt this drag. If you’re reading the book, keep going. It soon picks up pace again.
Big pluses that this book has in its favour are that the author is a friendly presence on the blogosphere, and is working hard on the rest of the series (I believe he is already working on Book 5). If you love reading lots of volumes following the same characters (like I do) and don’t want to wait years for the next instalment, this is a great series to get into, knowing that a sequel is just around the corner.
The biggest draw-card for me for this series is that this is traditional fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It will appeal to readers who have never read fantasy and are new to the genre, but I think it also appeals to us older readers of fantasy, who want to remember what it was about fantasy that excited us in the first place, when dragons were a wonder, not just a cliché and it was easy to pick who was the good guy and who was the baddie. If you are feeling a little burnt out from reading gritty fantasy novels full of dark despair and political machinations, this novel is like pink lemonade.
For a self-published novel, I’m giving this 8 out of 10 Goblins.