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Dragonoak: The Complete History of Kastelir

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After being exiled to the farmland around her village, Rowan Northwood takes the only chance at freedom she might ever get: she runs away with a passing Knight and doesn't look back. The woman cares nothing for Rowan's company, but nor does she seem perturbed by the powers that burn within her. Rowan soon learns that the scope of their journey is more than a desperate grasp After being exiled to the farmland around her village, Rowan Northwood takes the only chance at freedom she might ever get: she runs away with a passing Knight and doesn't look back. The woman cares nothing for Rowan's company, but nor does she seem perturbed by the powers that burn within her. Rowan soon learns that the scope of their journey is more than a desperate grasp at adventure. She breaks away from the weighty judgement of her village, but has no choice but to abandon her Kingdom altogether. Sir Ightham's past leads them through Kastelir, a country draped in the shadow of its long-dead Queen—a woman who was all tusks and claws and great, spiralling horns. Hiding her necromancy is no longer Rowan's greatest challenge, and what leads them across Kingdoms and through mountains is a heavier burden than she ever could've imagined.


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After being exiled to the farmland around her village, Rowan Northwood takes the only chance at freedom she might ever get: she runs away with a passing Knight and doesn't look back. The woman cares nothing for Rowan's company, but nor does she seem perturbed by the powers that burn within her. Rowan soon learns that the scope of their journey is more than a desperate grasp After being exiled to the farmland around her village, Rowan Northwood takes the only chance at freedom she might ever get: she runs away with a passing Knight and doesn't look back. The woman cares nothing for Rowan's company, but nor does she seem perturbed by the powers that burn within her. Rowan soon learns that the scope of their journey is more than a desperate grasp at adventure. She breaks away from the weighty judgement of her village, but has no choice but to abandon her Kingdom altogether. Sir Ightham's past leads them through Kastelir, a country draped in the shadow of its long-dead Queen—a woman who was all tusks and claws and great, spiralling horns. Hiding her necromancy is no longer Rowan's greatest challenge, and what leads them across Kingdoms and through mountains is a heavier burden than she ever could've imagined.

30 review for Dragonoak: The Complete History of Kastelir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lex Kent

    Feb 21, 2017 Review. This is book 1 in a LGBT epic fantasy series. I read the first two books in this series, a while ago. I have impatiently been waiting, for over a year, for the 3rd and finale book to come out. With book 3 releasing on Feb 23rd, I thought I should re-read this series to refresh my memory, and see if I still loved it. The short answer is yes. This is the one series, I seem to measure all other lesfic fantasy by. I started to think maybe I built these books up more in my head, Feb 21, 2017 Review. This is book 1 in a LGBT epic fantasy series. I read the first two books in this series, a while ago. I have impatiently been waiting, for over a year, for the 3rd and finale book to come out. With book 3 releasing on Feb 23rd, I thought I should re-read this series to refresh my memory, and see if I still loved it. The short answer is yes. This is the one series, I seem to measure all other lesfic fantasy by. I started to think maybe I built these books up more in my head, then what the really are. They are not perfect by any means, but I still loved every second of this book, and I remember book 2 being even better. I do want to mention, this book is slow in parts, especially the first half. But think about When Women Were Warriors The Warrior's Path or even The Lord of The Rings. The first books in good epics fantasy series, seem to be a bit slower, and involve a lot of traveling, and this is book is no exception. But it is world building, and character building. By the time you are done with this book, you are so invested in not one or two characters, but a whole group. And with the cliffhanger at the end, it is impossible to not read book 2. I forgave the cliffhanger because I don't see it as a cheap authors trick. And this is a series, not standalone books, by any means. The main character is Rowen, a Necromancer. She is living in a time when necromancy is feared and some even burned alive. This book is seen through Rowens point of view, and she is a wonderful character. Her love interest is Claire, a Knight. Again a very likeable but torn character. The romance between them is slow and sweet, but it makes sense with Rowen's sheltered and innocent upbringing. You will not find steamy sex scenes here, but the fade to black kind. But you still feel ever inch of their connection and chemistry. It is not just the main characters that are well written, but the supporting cast too. Each character has their own personality and is well fleshed out. I'm really happy to say how much I still enjoyed this book. And remembering that book 2, was even better, I can't wait to read it again. For fantasy fans, this book is a must. It is long, and slow in parts, but it is worth the journey. Did I mention there are Dragons? :)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alice Jooren

    This book knows what you want. What you want is gay ladies in fantasy settings, and it is more than willing to give it to you. They pour off the pages into your waiting arms. It would be an understatement to say I am happy with this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kogiopsis

    2.5 stars, rounded down because I left this book with a sense of... incompleteness. I have to agree with this review's assessment that this book reads like an early draft brought in to a writing group. Their critique is a lot more detailed than I'm going to get into here, but the takeaway is the same. Technically, the writing often lacked polish; the delivery of information was stilted at best; and the plot... meandered, to put it kindly. I wanted to like this book, really I did. You all know at t 2.5 stars, rounded down because I left this book with a sense of... incompleteness. I have to agree with this review's assessment that this book reads like an early draft brought in to a writing group. Their critique is a lot more detailed than I'm going to get into here, but the takeaway is the same. Technically, the writing often lacked polish; the delivery of information was stilted at best; and the plot... meandered, to put it kindly. I wanted to like this book, really I did. You all know at this point how I feel about f/f, dragons, and medieval fantasy - at least, I feel like you should know this. If not: I love all three of these things, and a book which promised to deliver all three should have been a shoo-in favorite for me. The thing is that Dragonoak just... failed to convey information. Flat-out, that's the issue I had here. I don't have an issue with worldbuilding-heavy books, and I'm in favor of the school of thought that advises not just infodumping to acquaint the reader with the world, but at the same time... it's not easy to read a book where, from practically the first page, you feel like you missed the memo on something important. Partly because of the way information was doled out, and partly because Rowan, the POV character, was almost constantly in the dark, I had the sense of never actually being caught up with what was going on. Now, to a degree I'm willing to deal with not knowing things because the protagonist doesn't - but the amount that wasn't made clear about Rowan herself does not get a pass on those grounds. To be perfectly frank: there was so much withheld about Rowan, for so long (why was she ostracized by her village? what are her powers? What the hell is society's beef with necromancers, who from what we're shown seem to mostly be super-healers?) that I could never connect with her as a character. Too much was held back for me to develop a sense of who she was and what she'd experienced, let alone her growth. Because her experiences in the village were cagily withheld, any steps she takes towards growing away from them aren't impactful. There's just not enough emotional depth here for anything to count, honestly. That said: Farren definitely gets props for writing a diverse fantasy. Queer characters, characters of color, trans and nonbinary characters - they're all here, integrated without a second thought into pretty much every society we see. And this isn't a case of well-meaning but rockily written representation: this is the smoothest aspect of the book, I think. (I would argue that as of this volume, Ran is not confirmed asexual - her species reproduces asexually, but that's different from the identity of asexuality, a distinction that, as an asexual biologist, is important to me.) The thing is, after all that, I still kind of want to read the sequel. Partly that's because I want to understand, partly because I'm invested in some characters (Ran) and the consequences of others' actions (Katja, because what the heck). But I'm not... interested enough to pay $8 for it, so it's probably never gonna happen. I don't really have time/money to spend on another installment wherein I understand virtually nothing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lex Kent

    I love this series! It is by far the best F/F fantasy series I have read. I can't remember the last time I read a book and couldn't stop thinking about it even 2 months later. It draws you in and immerses you in the characters. You feel for them, root for them, and want to continue your journey with them. Dragons, Knights, Pirates, Necromancers, if any of those interest you, don't pass this up! What also is great this book is free, no risk in snapping this up. The second was 7 or 8 dollars and b I love this series! It is by far the best F/F fantasy series I have read. I can't remember the last time I read a book and couldn't stop thinking about it even 2 months later. It draws you in and immerses you in the characters. You feel for them, root for them, and want to continue your journey with them. Dragons, Knights, Pirates, Necromancers, if any of those interest you, don't pass this up! What also is great this book is free, no risk in snapping this up. The second was 7 or 8 dollars and boy it was worth it, I'd have paid double to enjoy such a great book. Now I just have to impatiently wait for the third book to come out. And boy it can't come fast enough!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Liam (Hey Ashers!)

    This is a (long) review posted on Hey Ashers! The original post, which features more intelligible formatting than Goodreads allows, is available in its entirety here! Spoiler Rating: Moderate Finest of Katies, NaNoWriMo Week Three has ended (no, I won't talk about my word count), and I finally have a self-published novel to tell you about! Don't let my one-and-a-half-star rating scare you off. Dragonoak: The Complete History of Kastelir is flawed, sure, but it has some good stuff going on. And yes, I This is a (long) review posted on Hey Ashers! The original post, which features more intelligible formatting than Goodreads allows, is available in its entirety here! Spoiler Rating: Moderate Finest of Katies, NaNoWriMo Week Three has ended (no, I won't talk about my word count), and I finally have a self-published novel to tell you about! Don't let my one-and-a-half-star rating scare you off. Dragonoak: The Complete History of Kastelir is flawed, sure, but it has some good stuff going on. And yes, I enjoyed it—but I found myself reading Dragonoak as a first draft submitted to my writing group: a promising, fresh, malleable thing in need of serious revisions, not a finished work. Unfortunately, I have to rate it as the published novel it is, not the novel it could become. It'd get more than a measly one and a half stars if I could rate it on its promise alone. Diversity - The main characters are a lesbian and a homoromantic gray-asexual woman, and I seriously can't contain my excitement about that. - The wider cast includes lesbian and gay couples, and their relationships aren't taboo. - Women fill (what we view as) traditionally male roles, including high-ranking positions in the army (pardon my swoon). - Characters who don't fit the male/female gender binary use third-person pronouns, and no one thinks twice about it. - The main character is dark-skinned and dark-haired. - She enters into a romance with a pale-skinned and light-haired woman. (Side note: race doesn't appear to be a source of tension in Dragonoak. However, it's worth pointing out that Rowan, the main character and first-person narrator, is a farmer from a small village, and she's described as a person of color. Sir Ightham, who is of much higher birth and was raised in the capital city, and who has attained the exalted position of Knight, is white.) Romance - Rowan and Sir Ightham get to know each other, establish trust, and build romantic tension by small, tantalizing degrees. - The scenes that advance their relationship into a romance (like the first time they hold hands) are well written and worthy of multiple rereads. - They don't immediately flip from Companions With Romantic Tension to Clingy Soulmates. - In fact, they never become Clingy Soulmates. - Their romance isn't the be-all end-all focus of the story. Sword-Fighting - The romantic interest is a knight who is crazy-skilled with her sword. - The main character tries to learn sword-fighting, and (unlike so many main characters out there) she doesn't pick it up easily or with supernatural speed. Magic - Rowan's brand of necromancy is awesome, and not something I'd ever read before. - Information about her magic is doled out slowly. - Her magic isn't a Super Useful Multipurpose Tool that she and her companions are constantly relying on throughout their adventures. History - This is a world with an extensive and plot-significant backstory. - The novel is not, like its title suggests, a boring history textbook with all the events laid out chronologically; it focuses on a small cast of characters living in a world that's haunted by its past. - The kingdom's history is told through legends and stories and first-person accounts and rumors, all slowly coming together until the final piece clicks into place. I'll only discuss the most significant four things that could improve, because this isn't an actual critique for my writing group and I need limits. Four seems like a good limit. Let's see how well I stick to it. Thing The First: Narrative Technique 1. The Narrator Isn't The Protagonist Protagonists must overcome obstacles to achieve a goal; their struggles are the point of their story. The people who actually tell that story are narrators. The protagonist and the narrator don't always have to be the same person, but sometimes—like here—using two separate people for those roles can have a significant, negative impact on the story. Rowan narrates Dragonoak in the first person, and possesses none of the traits of a protagonist (goal, obstacles to overcome, antagonist, character arc, climactic goal-related moment, etc.). Throughout the book, Rowan just tags along behind Sir Ightham and sightsees. Meanwhile, Sir Ightham has a Super Secret Quest that takes her through kingdoms and across wilderness; it has her fleeing pursuit, collecting confidential information, and scheming with some very powerful people. But the details of Sir Ightham's quest are kept hidden from the reader, because Rowan doesn't know about/isn't involved in it. (Italics for emphasis.) Rowan/the reader doesn't find out what Sir Ightham's up to until very late in the book—and even then, Rowan still doesn't get involved. She continues to just hang about while Sir Ightham is protagonisting off-screen. This is agonizing. Yes, splitting the narrator and the protagonist can be an effective storytelling technique, but that's not the case in this particular version of this particular story. It left me hobbled to Rowan the Aimless Tourist when I really wanted to be questing alongside Bad Ass Sir Ightham. Do I think this problem could be fixed? Definitely, with serious revisions. But (as I obviously still haven't accepted) this isn't a manuscript, and I need to let go of my dream of seeing those revisions realized. (Why is it so hard to let go?) 2. Rowan Is Somehow Omniscient For a first-person narrator, Rowan knows an awful lot about what's going on in the minds of the people around her. Take, for example, this group of bandits: Two issues here: (1) the "self-proclaimed leader" never actually told Rowan and Sir Ightham that he's the leader, so it appears Rowan already knows the history of this particular group of bandits; (2) the leader scowled silently, but Rowan knows exactly why he scowled. Another sign of an omniscient first-person narrator is the liberal use of phrases like "as though," "I knew," "no doubt," "seemed," and so on. These phrases appear innocent enough, especially when they imply some doubt ("as though"), but they become dangerous when the writer relies on them to tell the reader what's really going on in the non-point-of-view character's head. Although there are many possible reasons for Sir Ightham to pinch her lips, Rowan immediately jumps to a specific conclusion—a conclusion that the reader is supposed to believe is accurate. This type of mistake is common for several reasons, including: (i.) The writer has a hard time divorcing themselves from the viewpoint character, leading to a sort of bleed-over of knowledge from the author to the character. (ii.) The writer's writing style relies on telling the reader what they need to know ("Our eyes met, and he scowled as if he'd hoped to never see me again") rather than showing the reader and trusting that the reader will figure it out ("Our eyes met, and he recoiled, smile souring"). Although it's not enjoyable to read, this mistake is easy to fix, and certainly not the end of the world. Thing The Second: Conflict And Pacing  Some key facts about conflict: (a) Conflicts are those obstacles that a protagonist must overcome to succeed in their goal. (b) Conflicts force protagonists to react, to reevaluate, to modify or change their course of action. (c) Conflicts should (ideally) build upon and complicate each other, raising the tension and the stakes as the protagonist's goal becomes (seemingly) farther from reach. (d) Conflicts should (ideally) be tied to both the story's theme and the main characters' arcs (what they learn over the course of the story, and how they change as a result). Frankly, I'm not clear on what the story's theme is, nor did I see any character arcs. Which is, you know, not a good thing. On top of that, there just isn't much conflict in Dragonoak. Sir Ightham's quest is surely conflict-filled, but (again) it's kept Super Secret  for most of the book. Rowan's sightseeing, meanwhile, is inconsequential; she's not struggling for or with anything, not accomplishing anything, not learning anything significant. Yes, there are a few times when Rowan seems to be in danger of drawing attention that'll get her burned at the stake (the standard fate for necromancers), but those tense moments quickly dissipate without any interesting follow-through. Now, there are a couple of false/minor conflicts that involve both Rowan and Sir Ightham: (i.) They're attacked a few times. The attackers appear out of nowhere and are swiftly defeated, and our heroines continue on their way. Injuries might be sustained, but neither the attacks nor the injuries significantly affect the plot. (ii.) Someone they want to talk to isn't where they'd thought she'd be, so their journey is extended by several weeks to reach her. This isn't a big deal, because Sir Ightham's quest apparently isn't on a tight schedule. That said, there are two really fantastic, A+, two-thumbs-up obstacles thrown in Sir Ightham's path. No, I won't tell you what they are, because spoilers. What makes them fantastic, A+, two-thumbs-up obstacles? Two things. (i.) They throw a huge wrench into Sir Ightham's plan, bringing her whole mission to a grinding halt. (ii.) They aren't mere personal challenges for Sir Ightham to overcome; they're events that will dramatically affect the kingdom and the world at large. Unfortunately, both conflicts come very late in the story; you have to push through a great deal of Rowan the Tourist Touristing About before you get to them. Also unfortunately, the first of those two conflicts isn't handled quite as realistically as I would've liked, and therefore isn't as powerful as it could've been. In sum, this story—which is a whopping 160,000-ish words, far exceeding the norm for fantasy novels—is 75% conflict-free traveling, followed by two brief periods of conflict (themselves separated by casual sightseeing). Clearly, pacing is an issue. Thing The Third: Nuanced Portrayals Of People One reason why I adore Maggie Stiefvater's writing is how nuanced her portrayal of each character is. They aren't characters at all, they're people: complex, idiosyncratic, and lovingly described by an author who knows them as intimately as she knows herself. You learn something about each character from, like, the way they hold a pencil or turn pages in a book. Her portrayals are immersive and gorgeous, and oh my goodness hold on I'm having a writer-crush moment. Just thinking about her writing gets my heart a-flutter. Okay. Now, I'm not saying that every writer has to achieve Stiefvater levels of nuance in order to be successful. I'm saying that some nuance is important to make the characters people, and that a lack of nuance results in characters who read like cardboard cutouts: they're the same size and shape as people, but lack the depth required to convince me that they are people. Dragonoak has plenty of nuanced moments, some of which are especially well written, but it also has too many instances of cardboard cutouts. For the sake of making any sense at all, I'll break those cardboardish moments down into three types: portraying emotions, portraying change, and portraying groups. 1. Portraying Emotions A lack of nuance turns emotions (which are  complex) and their expressions (which are complex) into simplified equations. (i.) Happy Person = grinning, laughing (ii.) Upset Person = crossed arms, scowling (iii.) Nervous Person = fidgeting, stammering A writer who doesn't pause to consider to the finer details of (a) the situation and (b) their character's emotion and behavior is prone to thinking, "Okay, the character is nervous. Nervous people fidget and stammer," and will rarely deviate from that stereotypical description of nervousness. But how emotions are expressed varies widely between people and situations. When I'm in a room full of strangers whose eyes are all on me, I get the flushed-nauseous-trembling sort of nervous that takes a few minutes to recover from. When I need to mingle and get to know a roomful of strangers, I get the smiling-inquisitive-engaging sort of nervous that can (apparently) pass as not being nervousness at all. This is because—surprise—I'm a real person, and I react to different situations differently, even if the primary emotion I'm feeling is essentially the same. How a person experiences and expresses their emotions can also be influenced by what they'd been feeling/doing the moment before. A teen who's furious at her parents probably won't turn all glitter and rainbows when they give her a piece of good news; that anger will affect how she experiences and portrays her sudden happiness (if she even feels happiness at all; the anger might be too strong). Meanwhile, a writer who doesn't consider the nuance of this teen's emotions might say that she went from Stereotypical Anger (crossed arms, scowling) to Stereotypical Happiness (laughing, grinning) in the space of a few seconds. The result are characters who all display their emotions in unrealistic and, frankly, boring ways. (Trust me, I know. My computer's full of old novels and stories populated with cardboard characters; they're so boring that I can't bring myself to read them, and I wrote them myself. That's terrible.) This isn't always an issue in Dragonoak—like I said, the book has its nuanced moments—but those cardboard emotional displays popped up more often than I would've preferred in a book that's already published. 2. Portraying Change People typically change in increments; depending on what about a person is changing (maturity level, personal or religious beliefs, their understanding of themselves or their society, etc.), it's a process that can take weeks, months, years, or lifetimes to complete. If a writer doesn't consider the finer details of how people change, a character's major change can be reduced to (at worst) a switch that's instantaneously flipped from one position to the opposite. An immature brat becomes respectful and responsible overnight; a do-gooder morphs abruptly into an evil villain. In Dragonoak, Rowan recognizes and overcomes her own extreme prejudice. Character arcs that involve unlearning prejudices are awesome, and I really like the set-up for Rowan's prejudice. However, when one's prejudices run as deep and powerful as Rowan's, the process of unlearning them should realistically take quite some time—certainly much longer than the mere days it takes Rowan to shed hers. Had this change taken a more realistic amount of time, it could've added some neat conflicts and tension to the story. But it was cut too short, and as a result, it didn't offer anything useful or even interesting to the story. 3. Portraying Groups It might be easiest to pinpoint a lack of nuance in descriptions of groups of people; groups become a single entity, all identically experiencing the same thought or emotion. No two people will have exactly the same reaction to anything, much less a group of several hundred. Regarding the second excerpt, I expect there'd be the "emergency mode" people who get focused and serious during a crisis, there'd be the "practical mode" people who just stay on task because the situation could get messier if they don't, there'd be the "take-advantage-of-this-opportunity mode" people who might decide this is their chance to steal something or leave an unexpected gift in their crush's bag or go take a nap while their boss is otherwise occupied. And so on, forever. Describing a group of people, especially a very large group, as all experiencing exactly the same emotion (especially if they're all displaying that emotion in the same general way) is unrealistic and boring. I want to read about various people struggling with and expressing a variety of emotions, not cardboard cutouts identically mimicking identical emotions. In sum: I'm not a fan of simplified portrayals of characters' emotions or arcs. Nuance is where it's at. Thing The Fourth: Research Is Important Writers exist in a lifelong state of research, which often involves looking up information about things they have no personal knowledge of but are going to be writing about. You can't very well write a novel set in ninth-century Japan if you don't know anything about ninth-century Japan. Okay, you can write that novel, but you'll get tons of things horribly wrong, and those errors will affect how well your novel is received, especially among readers who do know something (or can make educated guesses) about ninth-century Japan. Unfortunately, Goodreads won't give me the space to elaborate on that here. To read the rest of my Research Is important stuff, see either my website or my Tumblr. Sorry for the inconvenience! Okay. I said I'd limit my critique to the four most important points, and I think I technically succeeded. Would I recommend you read Dragonoak? I'm not sure. It's rough and very long, but it's also promising, with a lovely touch of romance. I guess it depends on whether you have the time and patience to devote to a novel that isn't well plotted and executed. (Which I know you don't, since you're finishing your doctorate and teaching and generally bad-assing around.) I will say that there's a very good chance I'll be picking up its sequel eventually. Farren's an imaginative writer with interesting stories to tell (seriously, I hope they write a prequel telling Rán's story), and I'd like to see how their writing improves. Love, Liam

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jem

    Imagine Lord of the Rings, with Frodo, Aragorn and Treebeard-on-steroids going on a quest. Except that they're all female (yey!). Dragonoak is set in a time when dragons go around razing whole towns. And knights in dragon bone armor go around trying to stop them. But don't go looking for dragon slaying action here. At least not in the first book. Or at least, not in 97% of the first book. This is first and foremost about the journey of a young woman cursed with a special ability so terrifying an Imagine Lord of the Rings, with Frodo, Aragorn and Treebeard-on-steroids going on a quest. Except that they're all female (yey!). Dragonoak is set in a time when dragons go around razing whole towns. And knights in dragon bone armor go around trying to stop them. But don't go looking for dragon slaying action here. At least not in the first book. Or at least, not in 97% of the first book. This is first and foremost about the journey of a young woman cursed with a special ability so terrifying and diabolical, people would burn her at the stake if they knew. It's a journey of self-discovery (the book is entirely from her first person perspective) as she goes from a simple, country girl and unwanted village pariah to being a valued member of a "family", as she comes face to face with the prejudices, hatred, fears and superstitions of the outside world, as she experiences love and betrayal for the first time, and as she is forced to make hard and dubious choices for the "greater good". Probably the most frustrating thing about the book is that the purpose of the quest is not made known to the lead character (and therefore, the reader) until late in the book. So it takes quite a bit of patience (and a lot of trust in friend reviews ;)) to get through the many chapters where the main characters travel from one town to another with no seeming end or purpose. It occasionally got disorienting as well. More than once I had to try to recall where I was in this world. I think it would have helped if there was a map of some sort in the book. And a glossary for the different peoples/races mentioned. Fortunately, the same limited perspective that made the read so frustrating also made it so incredibly addicting (and powerful when the truth hits). Everything is seen from the country girl's innocent yet not-so-innocent eyes. It's a truly immersive and emotional experience. All that travelling around allowed the author to draw such detailed and in-depth characterizations of the three main protagonists---Rowan the country girl, Igtham, the knight/dragonslayer and Kouris, the amazingly badass but also motherly creature called "pane" that it was impossible not to fall in love with them (despite how hideous the book's description made the "pane" seem like). By the time the true purpose of the quest was revealed, I was completely hooked. The book is trying for the epic fantasy look and feel obviously, and succeeding mostly. Though it could probably use a bit of trimming here and there. Like jettison that annoying Michael character and his entire storyline. I won't miss him one bit. Akela's accent. I don't know what to make of it. It's funnier than it's supposed to be. Distracting, at best. I had a hard time trying not to imagine her as a gag character, which she obviously isn't. Occasionally, something seemingly out of place, or rather, out of time slips in--modernish concoctions like ice or chocolate, or modern terms like "processing" an emotion, or "dietary choices" or "operative word". Nothing big but they were enough to pull me back to the present like that coin from "Somewhere in Time". Tolkien this ain't. But it's still entertaining as hell. 4.5 stars

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rain

    How did I not read this sooner? This book is fantastic! The world, the story, the characters, the romance... everything. It was entertaining and engaging from the beginning and it had my undivided attention. I frequently find myself criticizing/disliking at least one aspect of a book (something related to the characters, a flaw in the plot, or maybe the pacing), even if I'm really liking it overall, but that's not the case here. In every aspect it was pretty much perfect for me! I think the world How did I not read this sooner? This book is fantastic! The world, the story, the characters, the romance... everything. It was entertaining and engaging from the beginning and it had my undivided attention. I frequently find myself criticizing/disliking at least one aspect of a book (something related to the characters, a flaw in the plot, or maybe the pacing), even if I'm really liking it overall, but that's not the case here. In every aspect it was pretty much perfect for me! I think the world-building is great and I don't remember ever feeling overwhelmed. All of the characters are also very well-written, and the romance was really nice, I love that it never felt rushed, rather, their relationship developed slowly over time. All in all, this is the kind of fantasy book I'm always expecting to find, and I'm really looking forward to reading the sequels. (:

  8. 4 out of 5

    Book Worm

    Alright, I really enjoyed that ride and can't wait to start the second book. What did this story have? A very naive necromancer, a stern knight and a very likable pane. They form an unlikely bond in the midst of ... we don't know until maybe until 80% of the book are read what the adventure is all about. However, this did not keep me from reading on, no on the contrary it slowly reeled me into the story, into seeing this world and the inhabitants with ever clearer eyes. As Rowan, the necromancer' Alright, I really enjoyed that ride and can't wait to start the second book. What did this story have? A very naive necromancer, a stern knight and a very likable pane. They form an unlikely bond in the midst of ... we don't know until maybe until 80% of the book are read what the adventure is all about. However, this did not keep me from reading on, no on the contrary it slowly reeled me into the story, into seeing this world and the inhabitants with ever clearer eyes. As Rowan, the necromancer's naivete is slowly lifted from her mind, the more she sees and learns, my own preconceptions were questioned. I encountered in this first book a very complex and intricate world, main characters that actually undergo a great deal of character development and well developed side characters. There were a few typos and sometimes that grated a bit on my nerves, but even that couldn't deter me to like the book very much.

  9. 5 out of 5

    lov2laf

    This is a really well done fantasy novel filled with knights, monarchy, necromancers, dragons, and creatures I've never heard of. The author did an excellent job of world building and it's clear that the plot is intricate and well thought out. The story takes awhile to unfold and it's not clear what outcome our characters are striving for because it is told from the perspective of our lead, Rowan the necromancer, who's like a fresh new lamb that is also purposefully kept in the dark by the other This is a really well done fantasy novel filled with knights, monarchy, necromancers, dragons, and creatures I've never heard of. The author did an excellent job of world building and it's clear that the plot is intricate and well thought out. The story takes awhile to unfold and it's not clear what outcome our characters are striving for because it is told from the perspective of our lead, Rowan the necromancer, who's like a fresh new lamb that is also purposefully kept in the dark by the other characters. Rowan is basically on an epic journey of all journeys and we find out the plot as she does. The book is a page turner, though, and held my interest the entire time. There were so many unexpected twists I think this book gets the most points for "I didn't see that coming" more than any other book I've ever read. Whatever surprises presented it wasn't forced, made the story more cohesive, and helped things slip into place. That's pretty hard to pull off and at every turn I was really delighted by the new directions the story took. So, well done to the author for that. In addition to a complex plot, each character clearly has a strong backstory and distinct style which I thoroughly appreciated. As for ethnic diversity, many characters are not white, specifically our lead, Rowan. Overall, the book is high quality and I give it around 4.4 stars. There are two drawbacks I did feel the book had, though, with one being a little more pressing and the other being super minor. The main one was Rowan's love interest...not that I wasn't rooting for it. I was. A lot. But, because Rowan is more sheltered and is fairly naive, she felt really young to me despite being in her 20s. Her love interest is much more worldly wise and it felt like there was somewhat of a mismatch...like a kid getting with a grown up. Ack. And because the two don't always talk the most I was curious as to the why and when the mutual attraction developed. They had a number of scenes together which I could see the author using to indicate something more was coming but there also wasn't a clear attraction/sexual interest between them, either. I hate to nitpick but, since we're in Rowan's head, it would've been great to have her fawn over said love interest like fantasize about her when she should be thinking of something else, bite her lip, blush in her presence, awkward freudian slips of interest/attraction, jealous of other's attentions...that kind of thing even if Rowan considered herself way out of the running and could never fathom having the same level of interest returned. That would've made it very clear and much more organic. Instead, the romance aspect felt kind of tacked on and clunky. And the minor quibble is coming across a few missing words here and there or the wrong word used ("content" vs "contend", for ex)... But, hey, the story is HUGE and awesome and a fantastic debut so whatever gripes I have are really, really small in the grand scheme of things. I truly enjoyed the book and am thoroughly impressed by this author. The story ends with a dramatic cliffhanger so I'm glad books 2 and 3 are already out. I'll definitely be reading them. Yes, recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    Quite liked this. Wasn't really a fan on how it ended but overall I enjoyed it. Pretty high fantasy that has knights, dragons, Kings and Queens, etc. Rowan the outcast gets swept up fairly quickly into a, dare I say, near Tolkien'ess type adventure. I say that because with a lot of fantasy there's TONS of traveling involved. And that did bog it down for me a bit. But it also gives time for the party to get to know each other, so I suppose it suits it's purpose. Heading into book 2. Nice to see t Quite liked this. Wasn't really a fan on how it ended but overall I enjoyed it. Pretty high fantasy that has knights, dragons, Kings and Queens, etc. Rowan the outcast gets swept up fairly quickly into a, dare I say, near Tolkien'ess type adventure. I say that because with a lot of fantasy there's TONS of traveling involved. And that did bog it down for me a bit. But it also gives time for the party to get to know each other, so I suppose it suits it's purpose. Heading into book 2. Nice to see they're KU :)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Farah

    What was one supposed to do while waiting for her flight home, when she couldn't listen to her audio fantasy book as she was travelling with a chatty sister? Google FF Fantasy to find an ebook that will help to kill the time. I was surprised to see this Series by Sam Farren to be featured with the well-known books in the genre, did some GR search, found Jem's review and rating. So 4OO+ pages later, here I am. A fan. It all started with a shunned shepherd named Rowan and no, she wasn't shunned bec What was one supposed to do while waiting for her flight home, when she couldn't listen to her audio fantasy book as she was travelling with a chatty sister? Google FF Fantasy to find an ebook that will help to kill the time. I was surprised to see this Series by Sam Farren to be featured with the well-known books in the genre, did some GR search, found Jem's review and rating. So 4OO+ pages later, here I am. A fan. It all started with a shunned shepherd named Rowan and no, she wasn't shunned because she cried wolf. Rowan was someone valuable to her village until she did the rock and a hard place and everyone except for her brother and father turned their backs on her. Confined to the family's farm, Rowan's bleak future was given a break when a Knight stepped into her village. Now here comes the expected and the wonderfully unexpected. I knew that there was going to be something² between Rowan and Sir Ightham, first name Claire but what I didn't expect was, how much I looked forward to Rowan's scenes with a pena named Rán, the friendship between these two was nicely done. Google failed to show me how a pena looked like, if any of you know, do tell. So after meeting the dragon-slaying Knight, Rowan's mundane life was upgraded to adventurous. Think Bilbo Baggins leaving Shire to join the Dwarves in their quest except here, the males were limited. Most characters were females and a few non-binaries. On the adventure/action elements, since this is a trilogy, I applaud the author for not putting all their eggs in one basket. I just love everything that Farren put to paper, They managed to transmit every taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight onto the page. And not only that, when doing so, they used such a vivid writing style that transported me to this world with great characters to befriend with. It was perfectly built and the story fit well with the characters, their personality, actions and the style of talking. Everything was in the right place. The author did a very good job with allowing you to get to know each character and what made them tick. You will feel their actions said and unsaid. You will understand why they decided to do certain things, for example why they held back or why they gave you just enough. This book is unique and uplifting. It’s the kind of story that starts off decently but by the end your heart feels so full of love for ALL the characters in the book. I had trouble in the beginning because the heroine was quite weak, wasn't sure with the direction of the story but I’m glad I pushed forward. If I didn’t, I would’ve missed out on a good read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Blink51n

    After starting and abandoning several books in a row, Dragonoak has got me out of my reading funk! I love the world Farren has constructed here. It is beautifully written and vastly layered. The author does a fantastic job of conveying the histories and people across different counties throughout the story without using a big information dump. Personally, I found a lot of parallels between this fantasy world and our own and feel like this is something of a social commentary on some issues - most After starting and abandoning several books in a row, Dragonoak has got me out of my reading funk! I love the world Farren has constructed here. It is beautifully written and vastly layered. The author does a fantastic job of conveying the histories and people across different counties throughout the story without using a big information dump. Personally, I found a lot of parallels between this fantasy world and our own and feel like this is something of a social commentary on some issues - most notably racial prejudice and homophobia. Rowan is a great narrator. She is so niaeve and sheltered, making her the perfect way for us to learn the world. I also love the pane - so great to find so many fresh concepts in a fantasy book. I'm excited to see what book two has in store!! Highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    3.5 sterren rounded up to 4. I really like the diversity of the characters and the author's poignant way of highlighting prejudices/discrimination against inhuman panes and necromancers. Initially, I was rather dubious on the dynamic of the fair-skinned knight (white saviour complex), having a lowly dark-skinned farm girl as a "squire or servant" (but not really)...just you know, tagging along, witnessing the knight's journey while having low self-esteem. But as more diverse characters in positi 3.5 sterren rounded up to 4. I really like the diversity of the characters and the author's poignant way of highlighting prejudices/discrimination against inhuman panes and necromancers. Initially, I was rather dubious on the dynamic of the fair-skinned knight (white saviour complex), having a lowly dark-skinned farm girl as a "squire or servant" (but not really)...just you know, tagging along, witnessing the knight's journey while having low self-esteem. But as more diverse characters in positions of power and the secrets/reasons behind the knight's actions are revealed, I realised that my initial preconceived notions were misconstrued. The journey of self-realisation is just really, REALLY, slow. In short, it's a rather good start to a new and imaginative world featuring badass women.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    I've been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it this past spring- because there's nothing about fantasy epics with believable queer characters that I find unappealing. Finding out that it's *free* on Kindle this afternoon promptly bumped it to the top of my list. I've been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it this past spring- because there's nothing about fantasy epics with believable queer characters that I find unappealing. Finding out that it's *free* on Kindle this afternoon promptly bumped it to the top of my list.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Linh Nguyen

    4.5 stars Definitely has a The Warrior's Path feel to it, calm, refreshing, not as beautiful but equally colourful. A fairy tale with kingdoms, knights, dragons, necromancers, panes (haft bull half human according to my imagination =)). I finished this book in one day, I was that hooked. Now moving on to book 2! 4.5 stars Definitely has a The Warrior's Path feel to it, calm, refreshing, not as beautiful but equally colourful. A fairy tale with kingdoms, knights, dragons, necromancers, panes (haft bull half human according to my imagination =)). I finished this book in one day, I was that hooked. Now moving on to book 2!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I was so happy to see such casual, positive lgbt rep in a fantasy book! The story was compelling and while I found the main character frustrating at times I couldn't put the book down and I'm eager to immediately start the second one. I was so happy to see such casual, positive lgbt rep in a fantasy book! The story was compelling and while I found the main character frustrating at times I couldn't put the book down and I'm eager to immediately start the second one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    The Sapphic Nerd

    I'm not going to lie to you and say this book had me hooked from page one. It starts off fine; it's interesting enough to keep reading with a good amount curiosity, but not "Oh my gosh! Who is this person?! I must know more about them ASAP!" But hey, that's perfectly alright because it's a story that steadily burrowed into my heart, so unassuming that it caught me off-guard when I realized I'd been thinking about it all day, at work, for the several days. Opportunity to read it became my main re I'm not going to lie to you and say this book had me hooked from page one. It starts off fine; it's interesting enough to keep reading with a good amount curiosity, but not "Oh my gosh! Who is this person?! I must know more about them ASAP!" But hey, that's perfectly alright because it's a story that steadily burrowed into my heart, so unassuming that it caught me off-guard when I realized I'd been thinking about it all day, at work, for the several days. Opportunity to read it became my main reason for anticipating breaks. I spent time mulling over characters, shipping them, daydreaming about them, grinning to myself over their interactions and reflecting on the various dynamics between them... Friends recommended this book to me ages ago, and I only just remembered to read it last month. I've come to see the error of my procrastination. I've been missing out. Like I said before, the start isn't anything to obsess over. It's how I felt and what I read as I continued that separates this from other fantasy novels - and all novels in general. The world building is fantastic. This is a rich world that boasts different cultures, various political views, races, social hierarchies, architecture, and resources. Every presented culture is distinct from the others, with its own similarities and differences in values, tradition, beliefs, and so on. There are also different races inhabiting the world, with the pane (a race of horned giants with tusks protruding from their lower jaw) being the most prominent in the story so far. Human races come in a variation of skin tones that tend to originate from specific regions. And yes, this world has dragons. Dragonoak - by far - has the greatest rate of inclusion for underrepresented character types, particularly when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. Numerous trans/agender/gender fluid characters are shown, and written with respectful "they" pronouns. Polyamorous characters are also around, with a polyamorous relationship shown in the sequels, according to the author. This is no monochromatic world, and it shows. Even the protagonist, Rowan, is homoromantic but leans towards the asexual side sometimes. Sexuality and gender are never questioned, but accepted as part of the character. I also really appreciate the dynamics between characters and their different types of relationships. There are a lot of women in this book, and a lot of them aren't exclusively heterosexual. Thankfully, there isn't the problem of all-the-women-like-each-other-romantically, because Farren, well, isn't an idiot. Some have romantic feelings for others, yes, but there are also sibling-like relationships, mother-daughter type relationships, and more. Character interactions and relationships are fascinating to read. As characters develop and grow closer together, their behavior shifts to reflect that. And this is written in a way that feels natural - not forced or rushed. Claire's slow warming up to Rowan is noteworthy for Farren's patience and ability to withhold premature bonding. In contrast, Rowan's relationship with Ran (sorry, I don't know how to put an accent on the "a") becomes warm quite quickly and their dynamic is delightful. Like I said earlier, things happen gradually in this book. Characters learn about themselves and each other over time, and through shared experiences. The stakes start off low because we're only given Rowan's perspective, but as things play out, she finds out more about the situation, the stakes rise, and so does the reader's emotional investment. There are slower sections where Rowan basically waits around for everyone, but that's not something I'd fault the writing for. Rather, it reflects how Rowan feels about what's going on around her, and helps readers understand her boredom and feeling caged in. There are also times when your heart will ache for characters, and moments when you'll giggle with them. And then there's that chaotic, heart-wrenching ending. So, the summarized version? Dragonoak is a well-written, accessible fantasy that has more representation than I've ever seen or read. From the characters, to the world they live in, to the plot around them, this book is memorable in the best ways. You just have to give it time to show you. It's not perfect, but I can't think of anything big enough to complain about, and the mountain of feels result in higher ratings from me. 4.5/5 stars

  18. 5 out of 5

    Starsandsun18

    So, after 48years I've finished this book. I've read this on a wrong time, been very busy but I'm glad I took the chance. It's a slow book so you have to be very patient with it and make sure to have extra time. I think theaction starts at Part 3, for me. If you like Knights, dragons, necromancer, pane etcetera this book is a must read. It's well written with interesting characters. This book is from Rowan's POV she's a necromancer i don't think her character is really well developed I'm guessing So, after 48years I've finished this book. I've read this on a wrong time, been very busy but I'm glad I took the chance. It's a slow book so you have to be very patient with it and make sure to have extra time. I think theaction starts at Part 3, for me. If you like Knights, dragons, necromancer, pane etcetera this book is a must read. It's well written with interesting characters. This book is from Rowan's POV she's a necromancer i don't think her character is really well developed I'm guessing that will happen on the next book? For Claire, I think she's too femme for a Knight but it's bad ass if you'll think of it especially if she wears dress sometimes. I think my favorite here is Queen Kouris and I'm interested to read her back story especially with Queen Kidira. And she's also too sweet for a pane. I've expected this to be a bit dark, yeah I guess there are parts but not that much considering it involves Dragons and Knights. I think Pirates are more darker. :) Looking forward to read the next book, it's a bit of a cliffhanger so watch out. 4- 4.5 but more of a 4, guess I'm reserving my 5 stars to the next book. :)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Whitneycyn

    3.75 — Oh, that slow burn. Besides being busier at work (where I usually read during my breaks), this took me longer than usual to finish reading. I didn’t find the story compelling enough to read non-stop, but I trust other reviews and I’m hanging in there for the world building! I really like the perspective of necromancy in this book...to see it as pushing death away (in a similar way a healer would) instead of something dark, dabbling with what is already dead. Necromancy for Rowan, is not a 3.75 — Oh, that slow burn. Besides being busier at work (where I usually read during my breaks), this took me longer than usual to finish reading. I didn’t find the story compelling enough to read non-stop, but I trust other reviews and I’m hanging in there for the world building! I really like the perspective of necromancy in this book...to see it as pushing death away (in a similar way a healer would) instead of something dark, dabbling with what is already dead. Necromancy for Rowan, is not a choice, and as a result, lives as an outcast in her own village. It becomes the root of her fears and insecurities. But when she leaves her home, she meets people who accept and can see the beauty in what she can do. That story line resonates with me :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alealea

    I had a hard time getting into it and a harder time getting convinced by the main characters. Still, the story when unfolds, becomes enticing and the geopolitical, historical and mythological backgrounds are pretty interesting. We saw the world through the eyes of an uneducated naive farm girl, who just happens to have power beyond imagination. This gets fun !

  21. 5 out of 5

    Claudie Arseneault

    Will not finish. It has been brought to my attention that Sam Farren has been accused of sexual assault by two women. Moving on to other authors.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Roland Clarke

    Review 3.5 stars I was drawn to read this book as the blurb, and the reviews promised an engrossing fantasy novel where diversity was the norm. I found the opening intriguing with a fascinating backstory trickled out, not dumped on me. Rowan Northwood as a narrator is driven to leave her village by the attitude of the people that saw her as a healer until they discovered her hidden power. Her journey is one of discovery, about the world that she only knows from her brother Michael’s stories and ab Review 3.5 stars I was drawn to read this book as the blurb, and the reviews promised an engrossing fantasy novel where diversity was the norm. I found the opening intriguing with a fascinating backstory trickled out, not dumped on me. Rowan Northwood as a narrator is driven to leave her village by the attitude of the people that saw her as a healer until they discovered her hidden power. Her journey is one of discovery, about the world that she only knows from her brother Michael’s stories and about other people. However, she is not the protagonist as that is Sir Ightham, a female knight that is well-portrayed as the norm. At first, Rowan is intrigued and inspired by Sir Ightham, but as she discovers more about the knight, a real attraction grows. Personally, I found it difficult to relate to such a distant protagonist, but I kept reading knowing that through Rowan, I should discover more. Many of the characters are not the fantasy norm exactly. This aspect of the world-building delivered, as did the world beyond Michael’s books, and this element kept me wanting more. The third intriguing character was an asexual called Rán, whose race, the pane, were central to the story – I must avoid spoilers and say little more about that. When Rán appears, Rowan calls her ‘she’ and for the rest of the book Rán is a ‘she’. But the pane are asexual or transgender, and the pronoun for them individually is ‘they’. However, once I had adapted my mindset to using this gender-neutral pronoun, confusion set in. Why was Rán ‘she’ but other single pane were almost all ‘they’? What about this sentence: A handful of younger pane crept up on us. Their leader, a girl with the first signs of a right horn showing, inched her way to the steps. I raised a hand to wave and they shrieked, scattering like ants. I kept reading engrossed in the story – but after researching ‘gender-neutral pronouns’. Other elements threw me, like the treatment of the horses that grated with everything I knew as a retired equestrian journalist. The jigsaw remained complicated and unclear – well to Rowan as the narrator but not the protagonist – but eventually, after some unnecessary scenes of excessive world-building, the plotlines took shape through new arrivals, encounters and interruptions. The mysterious quest remained unclear. More began to grate. Some reviews had mentioned there were “a few typos”, but those would have mortified me if my writing had so many. I had to keep re-reading sentences and amending them. Anyway, back to worrying about the horses - but the focus is now on the Queen. A new intrigue so I’m not giving up. I want to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Rowan is an observant narrator, even if it’s hard being an observer that senses so much. First-person POV is hard, but the reader gets to feel with the main character – although she’s not telepathic. So why the sentences that stray into the omniscient? Confusing and yet avoidable. But enough of that ‘writing style’ nonsense, there’s a mystery to resolve and here comes the next twist. Finally, in the latter part of the novel, Rowan discovers more and events move faster. I began to find too many loose threads, and it was too late in the story to resolve many of them in time. At least, the central romance reached the next level – but romance is always ongoing. Much better, according to the author it seems, to add other threads and keep the reader wanting more and let us forgive the cliff-hanger ending – Tolkien did that in Lord of the Rings, so it’s justified. Correction - not in the same way. Reading that trilogy in the 1970s, a glimmer of hope kept me questing, but this time I’m letting Rowan struggle on without me. Dragonoak would be a good diversity fantasy if not for all the early draft failings like the pacing crisis, first-person omniscient POV, excessive typos and unnecessary scenes. At least, the author can edit the Kindle version one day. For now, I’m off to try a ‘diversity’ SF novel. Perhaps if there is a second edition, then I might join the journey and enjoy some of the inspiring prose. But not looking at them wasn’t enough to banish them from my mind. Whatever they suffered seeped into the air, following me through busy streets, as though the shadow I’d felt last night had returned to claim me. Story – four stars Setting/World-building – five stars Structure – three stars Readability – three stars Editing – three stars Style – three stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elly

    I got really into this book and I would solidly recommend it to anyone who is looking for sword & sorcery high-fantasy with cool lesbian protagonists. The story follows Sir Ightham and Rowan as they slowly figure out what's what with sinister forces, dragons, and a bunch of other fantasy goodness. If that's all there was this would be an okay book, but there are two things that really add to it: 1) The protagonists are lesbians. Often that way this comes up in high fantasy settings is the charact I got really into this book and I would solidly recommend it to anyone who is looking for sword & sorcery high-fantasy with cool lesbian protagonists. The story follows Sir Ightham and Rowan as they slowly figure out what's what with sinister forces, dragons, and a bunch of other fantasy goodness. If that's all there was this would be an okay book, but there are two things that really add to it: 1) The protagonists are lesbians. Often that way this comes up in high fantasy settings is the characters struggling with their sexuality being suppressed or forbidden, which leads into a lot of dramatic tension between showing their love and being socially outcasted. This book subverts that trope completely; the fact that the characters are queer just isn't a thing, in the setting. Other characters are in same-sex relationships or even same-sex marriages, and that passes without a mention. It's kind of sad that that makes the world feel a little utopian, but I really liked it as an element anyway. 2) The main character is a young necromancer, in a world where necromancy is basically an extension of healing magic. That's a lot of power for a protagonist to have, but it's dealt with very skilfully such that her power often becomes more of a liability for her than an asset. Other things I liked: Kastelir's backstory is fascinating, to the extent that I think it would be an interesting novel in its own right. There's an instance in this backstory of the "even royal characters are LGBT and it's not a thing" that doesn't get explored much but that I would totally read as a standalone book. The Pane's culture is really cool as well. There isn't much I didn't like, I guess. The start of the book feels a bit awkward because without the later context about necromancers it feels like Rowan's village are being really harsh to her for no apparent reason, but (view spoiler)[it kind of has to be that way because of how the story develops later in the book (hide spoiler)] . Sir Ightham's name is difficult to pronounce out loud? All in all, would definitely recommend to those who enjoy high fantasy adventure books, especially if you're into kickass female protagonists.

  24. 5 out of 5

    lauraღ

    FUCK. I loved this. (view spoiler)[As always, characters and character interaction are what I love and cling to, and this had a couple of absolutely amazing blossoming relationships that I just. I'm SWOONING thinking about it. The slow build of trust between Rowan and Sir Ightham was fucking delicious. Every inch that Rowan earned with her made me want to punch the air, and the slow turn to romance was ksjhfkjdshfsd. My copy is half highlighted passages of them saying meaningful stuff to one anot FUCK. I loved this. (view spoiler)[As always, characters and character interaction are what I love and cling to, and this had a couple of absolutely amazing blossoming relationships that I just. I'm SWOONING thinking about it. The slow build of trust between Rowan and Sir Ightham was fucking delicious. Every inch that Rowan earned with her made me want to punch the air, and the slow turn to romance was ksjhfkjdshfsd. My copy is half highlighted passages of them saying meaningful stuff to one another. And the burgeoning friendship (and moreship?!?!) between Rowan and Ran was so satisfying I want to screech. They were so playful and wonderful and sweet and tender with each other. And there was never any jealousy and there are two more book in the series so fingers crossed for poly!!! I just loved the dynamic. Rowan is this powerful necromancer coming into her own, and yet here are these two strong amazing women who will do any and everything to protect her. Every time Ran gave her a piggy back ride or let Rowan hold her horns I screamed. A quick word about Ran and the pane in general: hot????? Favourite fictional fantasy race ever???? Fucking... do me?????????????? World-building was fun and detailed and very creative, though I definitely feel like I lost a lot of threads (most of that is my own fault, I took a break in reading, came back to it without refreshing my memory) and it could have used a bit more... coherence? And yeah, the book isn't perfectly plotted or paced and edited and could use a good bit of work in that respect. But oh man I'm so happy about these CHARACTERS. Re: the ending: ROWAN WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY T__T God I'm so sad. And confused. Why do that??? You promised!!!!!! But I'm still aching to read the further instalments, because I need to believe that things are going to turn out all right for my three best girls. ;; (hide spoiler)] In conclusion: not a perfect book, but it made me an absurdly happy lesbian.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elise Michelle

    Do you like fantasy? (YES) Well, do you like fantasy that involves both main and supporting characters identifying as queer? (F YES!) Then this book is for you! I'm serious. There has never been a book so in-depth that I have connected so deeply and so personally with in a long time. All the characters have their own distinct backgrounds, their own thought processes, and their own reasons for doing--or not doing--certain things. The spectrum of personalities and the strengths, weaknesses, and flaws Do you like fantasy? (YES) Well, do you like fantasy that involves both main and supporting characters identifying as queer? (F YES!) Then this book is for you! I'm serious. There has never been a book so in-depth that I have connected so deeply and so personally with in a long time. All the characters have their own distinct backgrounds, their own thought processes, and their own reasons for doing--or not doing--certain things. The spectrum of personalities and the strengths, weaknesses, and flaws all of these likable characters have do this book a huge service and connects on a very real level. And the second you think you have this book figured out, IT TOTALLY TURNS AROUND! IT'S AN ADVENTURE! So? Should you read this book? The answer is the same to the question: Should I eat this delicious morsel of [insert favorite food]? (Hint: Yes. Yes you should.)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jasper

    Written by a convicted pedophile

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Lui

    Despite the rating, I really did enjoy this book! It had an intriguing world that I'm eager to get more of, great queer representation, a mostly-female cast, and it kept me fully engaged the whole time. However, it had several issues that I just couldn't get over, which I'll discuss below. The biggest issue I had was with the characters: with a few exceptions, characters were flat and lifeless, generally defined by one (or two if they were lucky) personality traits that changed not at all throug Despite the rating, I really did enjoy this book! It had an intriguing world that I'm eager to get more of, great queer representation, a mostly-female cast, and it kept me fully engaged the whole time. However, it had several issues that I just couldn't get over, which I'll discuss below. The biggest issue I had was with the characters: with a few exceptions, characters were flat and lifeless, generally defined by one (or two if they were lucky) personality traits that changed not at all throughout the book. Take Michael, for example, whose entire personality is "likes to read books." I found his interactions with Rowan to be very off-putting and confusing, mostly because they just didn't make sense as the interactions between two people who are supposedly siblings, and thus have known each other all their lives and presumably share a lot of life experiences. Their interactions are impersonal, flat, and betray nothing about the relationship dynamics between them. There was not a single point in the book where I felt like I had any idea what Michael's internal motivations were, what he could be thinking, or how he was feeling (beyond very basic, shallow emotions like "excited to have found a cool book" and "interested by cool historic architecture"). He even came off as a bit sociopathic at times, given how little he responded emotionally to serious situations. His character felt like a cardboard cutout of a person, and he contributes basically nothing to the story overall; when he leaves the group of main characters about 2/3 through the book, his absence is barely noticeable, which to me is damning evidence of how little he mattered and how uninteresting he was. In a similar vein, we have Queen Kidira, whose entire characterization is "stoic"; Kings Jonas and Atthis, whose entire personas are being "friendly" and "shrewd", respectively, with zero depth or intrigue; Kidira's daughter, Katja, who I couldn't even get a grasp on since her characterization is so bizarre and hard to follow; and many more completely static and uninteresting characters. In general, there's very little in the writing that points to deeper character thought processes, beyond repetitive descriptions of basic facial expressions and, occasionally, sections where Rowan's first-person narration gets a little too omniscient, and she simply tells the reader what a character is supposed to be thinking/feeling. Claire and Ran are a bit better written (and I actually really liked Akela, who I felt was the best written out of anyone in the book), but even then I didn't feel very connected to them or their journeys, and didn't feel like I had a great grasp of who they were by the end of the story. My second large problem is how the reader is almost entirely in the dark for 90% of the book. Rowan has no idea what's going on most of the time, and since she's the narrator, the reader has no idea what's going on. We know we're going on a long journey, but we don't know what the end goal is, and so the journey feels like it has no direction, no time pressure, and no meaningful stakes. This would be fine if other interesting things were happening in the meantime, but for the vast majority of the book, almost nothing happens beyond small detours, inconveniences, and general sightseeing. There's the occasional real plot point, but more often than not the ramifications are immediately resolved via healing, a brief conversation, or a similarly easy fix. Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy the sightseeing overall. My third large issue, and the last one I'll directly address, is Rowan herself. For someone who is repeatedly told about how powerful and special she is, she's incredibly passive for, well, the entire book save for arguably the last few chapters. She mostly just sits around, watching things happen to Claire and Ran, being in the dark, being told not to use her powers, and lamenting how helpless she is. Essentially her only contribution to the story is to serve as emotional support when the more interesting characters need someone to vent to (and even then it's sometimes unclear why they're venting to her, beyond to advance the plot and add to Rowan's knowledge---and by extension the reader's knowledge---of what's going on). What I found most heavy-handed regarding this, though, is when the author clearly wants the reader to witness a certain plot point, but it's something that Rowan logically shouldn't be a part of given how unimportant she is in the plot as a whole. To make sure Rowan is jammed into these scenes so she can narrate them, the author more than once just has Katja randomly drag Rowan to various important meetings and even private confrontations, and usually no one acknowledges that she definitely shouldn't be here. Then, after all of that work setting her up as someone who generally quietly does what she's told, she makes an astoundingly stupid and reckless decision near the end of the book that's barely justified and really doesn't make sense given everything the reader has learned about her up to that point, and then she never faces any consequences for it (although I imagine it has to be addressed in the next book). Beyond all that I discussed above, though, I did enjoy the book overall as fun, light reading, and I will definitely be buying the rest of the series!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cee Jelly

    Spoiler-free. This is a fantastic book even though it is just a setup of what to come later on in the series. The world-building is amazingly rich and gracefully presented. Although the beginning is confusing with the lack of information, the world and the characters' secrets are slowly unfolded one after another. All you need is a little patient and effort in paying attention to pieces of information. Expositions never feel out of place since: 1. Rowan is new to the world. 2. The educating dialog Spoiler-free. This is a fantastic book even though it is just a setup of what to come later on in the series. The world-building is amazingly rich and gracefully presented. Although the beginning is confusing with the lack of information, the world and the characters' secrets are slowly unfolded one after another. All you need is a little patient and effort in paying attention to pieces of information. Expositions never feel out of place since: 1. Rowan is new to the world. 2. The educating dialogues flow naturally into conversations. You get bits of history, glimses of the culture through small talks, not lectures. 3. And of course, because the content, the history, the culture are interesting in and of themselves. First-person narratives hardly ever spark my interest since they tend to be too self-indulgent or sappy. Gratefully, Rowan is definitely a solid person of her own, not in any way a cardboard for readers to slip themselves into. Rest assured that she is having her own struggles with accepting herself and finding a true home (which she gladly gets to have in the form of her companions). Sir Ightham and Rán have problems of their own, too. Sam Farren sees to it that our characters face their sorrows and their responsibility, making their emotions all the more believable and heart-wrenching. The plot/conflict of the world is indeed kept a secret to Rowan and readers untill half of the book, with only slim threads of its danger scattered here and there in Sir Ightham's occasional "talkative" moments. With the plot turning up that late, you would think that the book would be a snore fest to pull through. But it never is, not when the former half is used on our lovable characters spending time together and building trust, bonding, letting snippets of their past out there for Rowan and us readers to know that they are more than just their title or race. Many people have problems with the plot's late arrival, but if you enjoy the characters and the world-building around them, you wouldn't want to put it down. And to its credit, the plot is something definitely worth waiting for. When the book gets to its more serious business, it never stops pulling out one conflict after another, keeping readers eager for the next page. All the while, it gives breaks in the form of Rowan relaxing with her friends and getting into a romance. All in all, the book is amazing and I love the cast with all my heart. The only thing keeping it from being a 5 star book is some typos and the fact that it is a build-up to a grander story (a brilliant build-up with ups and downs of its own I might say). Should you read this? By all mean, yes!! It is full of adorable characters, rich world-builds, and exciting conflicts, all in a wonderful fantasy story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bailey Rox

    I'm on fence whether giving 4 or 5 stars for this book. I think it is about 4.5 stars. I won't give it 5 stars because it is unlikely that I will reread it The start of this book is really slow, about the first 30% we still don't know most of the mission, what is the purpose of their journey, what is the problem in the kingdom, etc. We only get to read from Rowan's POV so we as clueless as she is. We don't even know the other main character name until 1/5 book, we only know her as Sir Ightham. Row I'm on fence whether giving 4 or 5 stars for this book. I think it is about 4.5 stars. I won't give it 5 stars because it is unlikely that I will reread it The start of this book is really slow, about the first 30% we still don't know most of the mission, what is the purpose of their journey, what is the problem in the kingdom, etc. We only get to read from Rowan's POV so we as clueless as she is. We don't even know the other main character name until 1/5 book, we only know her as Sir Ightham. Rowan is a necromancer like super strong healer in this world. When people know that she's not merely a healer but a necromancer, she is exiled from her village. Though the start is really slow I can't stop reading, the naivety and cluelessness of Rowan make me can't wait to learn more about Sir Ightham, Ran, why they go to Kaselir, so many question make me read as fast as I can lol I love how the author describe the places in their travel, how Rowan is amazed seeing all those places. I can imagine the mountain, the Pane's village, Kastelir, the village and city they passed. And I freaking love Pane, the peaceful creature that maybe looks not so peaceful. The world building is amazing, the character is lovable and I really love Rowan’s development from the village girl to become more something more. Can't wait to read book number 2 after this, hopefully it will be a little bit faster than this. Though this is still a really great and enjoyable read

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shan( Shans_Shelves) 💜

    No rating - DNF @ 63% It kills me not to finish a book when I’ve passed the halfway mark but I couldn’t go on anymore. I like fantasy and I understand that when it comes to high fantasy you need to be prepared for a somewhat slower plot and a lot of world building, especially in the first book of a series. However, NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. Actually scratch that. Something was happening, we just didn’t get to read it because this was a first person POV and quite frankly Rowan was more interested in No rating - DNF @ 63% It kills me not to finish a book when I’ve passed the halfway mark but I couldn’t go on anymore. I like fantasy and I understand that when it comes to high fantasy you need to be prepared for a somewhat slower plot and a lot of world building, especially in the first book of a series. However, NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. Actually scratch that. Something was happening, we just didn’t get to read it because this was a first person POV and quite frankly Rowan was more interested in the scenery. The whole book is slow from the beginning but I wanted to give it a chance. It’s very diverse and so queer but alas not even the Slow developing f/f romance could save this book. Throughout the book is follows Rowan, Claire, for some reason- Rowan’s horribly annoying brother, who I can’t even remember the name of, and Ran- who was the most interesting being that they were Pane. All our characters are following Claire’s quest,the details which we know nothing about. I waited the whole book to find out only for Rowan not to be interested and so she went to look at more fucking fields and describe in detail the flowers. I don’t care about your DASIES SANDRA, GIVE ME THE ACTION!! It was after that I decided to stop and after much thought; I really did want to finish it. I came to the conclusion: Life Is too short for bad books.

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