Refugees (Mud, Rocks and Trees #1) by R.A. Denny

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I was requested to review this book by the author, this is another shorter book only coming in at 288 pages, so the review is going to be fairly short.

r/fantasy bingo

  • Indie published
  • under 2500 gr ratings
  • novel featuring a mountain
  • One Word Title


The prologue kicks off the plot by introducing an assassin paid by the Emperor to kill a small child who’s been named in a prophecy. The prophecy said that the “duck child” will be the true heir to the throne, and a new kingdom could be built around the heir. The duck people are just water loving humans with a lot of webbing on their hands and feet.

Baskrod is an elderly teacher who has a bunch of different students spread all over the land, he visits each about once a year and teaches them random things about the world – constellations, history, religion etc. He comes into Amanki’s fishing village in a hurry, trying desperately to tell the residents about an upcoming invasion by a force that’s barely human they’re so savage. Nobody believes him, he was treading thin ice with them before since they consider him an outsider and blasphemer, so when he comes into town telling them they’re all going to die if they don’t leave only gets him into trouble.

Unfortunately, since no one took his warning seriously, the village is sacked and Amanki loses everything, his home, his village, and his family. He sets off with Baskrod on a boat heading downriver, trying to escape the onslaught. He knows he has to reach the capital city of the Empire to fulfill his destiny, but he doesn’t know how he’s going to get there.

Meanwhile, the other “chosen” young people from the prophecy are having difficulties of their own trying to reach the capital city as well – many of them are Baskrod’s students and have been told for years that they will all have to make their way to the city and find a way to save the realm from the Emperor who’s gone corrupt. “Build a Kingdom out of mud, rocks, and trees” translating into the three young people from the muds of the rivers, the rock people, and the gliders who live in the trees.

Final Score: 11/15


Amanki, young kid, the one that was mentioned in the prophecy, he’s a curious sort and more trusting than most. The village he grew up in is very mundane, the son inherits the farm after the father passes, and passes it onto his son and on and on it goes. People rarely leave and they’re distrusting of outsiders, particularly those without webbing. The people who live in the surrounding areas worship a different and singular god, and they consider it blasphemy. Amanki is more open to learning, he wants more from life and has a lot of dreams of life outside his village. He also has prophetic see-ing dreams, where he has visions of animals he’s never seen and places he’s never been to.

Brina loves adventure, manoeuvring her way through the forest while taking different routes to get to different places gives her a lot of satisfaction and joy. She can’t imagine her life without the forest, and her culture is also very intertwined with the forest and it’s resources. She’s nervous and a tad overwhelmed when she sees the prophesized new star burning bright in the sky, knowing that means she has to leave her family and travel to the capital – she has a deep connection to her family and doesn’t want to leave, despite dreaming about it for a long time.

Moshoi is of the ‘rock people’ and has just recently woken up from his hibernation to find that the new star is already in the sky. He has to scramble to get everything together to set off on his journey, and wants to take his younger brother with him for some company. He’s the eldest son, and almost a man grown, and is very excited to start on a new journey.

Metlan is a cat rider, and I wasn’t a big fan of his. He made a remark when he was hunting down Brin’s tribe that he wanted to feed her dead friend to his cat. He was captured and asked about it, and lied with a smile on his face saying that Brin must have misunderstood since they speak different languages – insisting that he would never ever do anything like that. Even though that’s exactly what he set out to do when he entered the forest. He’s kind of smug, and is the son of the King of his people.

Final Score: 12/15

World Building:

“Webby’s” are humans who have a lot of webbing between their hands and feet, they are excellent swimmers and marvel at the fact that humans without webbing usually avoid the water. They are extremely cautious around new people, but are loyal to their own, taking in the injured from other villages.

Gliders are a group of humanoids that have webbing between their arms and legs almost like a flying squirrel. They have claws which allow them to climb trees with ease, and make their homes in the forest up in the trees.

Cat Riders make special bonds with oversized cave lions, able to ride them into battle and make special friendships akin to a dog. They consider the Gliders to be subhuman, and hunt them to feed to their lions.

The rock people live in caves and make their homes in the mountains. They go through hibernation periods where many of their number sleep for months at a time, leaving the Watchers to take care of the settlement while the others sleep. They have scales on their backs, and scaled ‘beards’ as well, and make a living mining and working in metallurgy.

Final Score: 11/15


The prologue was written in the third person, but starting at chapter one it switched over to first person for each of the different POV’s. The writing is pretty utilitarian without a lot of simile and metaphor, letting the prose get out of the way of the story. I didn’t notice too many spelling or grammar errors, and I read through it easily.

Final Score: 10.5/15


It starts out with a prologue, but it’s only a few pages long so it wasn’t distracting or jarring for me. I knew where things were going from the start, so it was easy to keep the pages turning. The second POV was introduced about 10% through the book, you don’t know who she is, but you know how she’s related to the story (at least in part).

The middle of the book sort of lagged a bit because there were so many character intro’s and I wasn’t sure how they were all going to line up together. I knew the general gist of the plot, but I wasn’t seeing how everyone was going to come together for the same mission when I was at the 40% mark. Then I just kept waiting for them all to get together as the prophecy said, and they were repeatedly told throughout the book – but they never did! They were still on their journey meet up at the capital by the end of the book. It’s a really short book, so maybe the second one will have everyone together and working on the way to save the kingdom.

Final Score: 8/15


I really liked the various takes on human-ish people with totally different cultures all based on their environment and physical attributes. The “Gliders” being almost like squirrel people with skin flaps that extend and let them glid to tree to tree. The Webby’s being able to swim well and focusing on the water, the cat riders who go to battle on the backs of giant cave lions, and the ‘rock people’ with their scaled backs hibernating for months at a time in their caves.

Final Score: 11.5/15

Personal Enjoyment:

This was a very straightforward read, it was a bit darker and more violent than I was expecting since the protagonists are all young adults, but it leads to an interesting plotline and grimmer overall tone and I definitely think there’s an audience that would enjoy it.

Final Score: 7.2/10


  • For people who like the farmboy trope
  • For people who like multi pov
  • For people who like shorter books
  • For people who like prophecy
  • For people who don’t mind violence
  • For people who like a bunch of very different cultures
  • For people who like humanoid type pov’s
  • For people who like original fantasy races

Final Score: 71.7/100 (3.58 stars)

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