There’s a brief prologue that follows Aden and his mentor Cormell as they head towards the scene of a massacre. There are bodies everywhere and at first, there didn’t appear to be any survivors from the caravan. As they were poking through the remains to see if they could find clues as to what happened, a man rises from the pile of bodies. He had been hiding in the pile mimicking a corpse, Cormell calls him out as a goblin and the man shifts into a green-skinned, red-eyed and black clawed monster. They get into a fight and Cormell ends up dead, but Aden survives and is able to tell others what happened. Aden is mercilessly plagued by nightmares for a long time following Cormell’s death, his mentor’s death weighed heavily on him with no small portion of guilt.
Chapter 1 picks up 15 days after the incident and Aden is now being visited by demons nightly, the demose of this world prey upon the weak and vulnerable, those who have just suffered a great trauma or sorrow are most likely to fall victim to their tauntings. They whisper to broken people in the dark, asking them to submit, to join with them. Once you join with a demon it’s all over, you will eventually lose yourself to madness, people know this, but their whispers can be tempting when people are at their weakest. Those that join with the demons are called Remnants and are generally despised and killed. Before his mentor’s death, Aden thought he was very close to being inducted as a full knight, his dream for his life is not just be a knight, but a Guardian (A title given to legendary knights). After Cormell’s passing, however, the council stalls and drags their feet saying that they don’t think he’s fully ready yet and instead of inducting him they assigned him a new mentor, Ohn’na. The mentor herself is new to the process since Aden will be her first student, the Order before this time had refused to give her a “kit” or a trainee. The council lets Aden know that he and his old mentor were lured to that massacre on purpose, there have been more and more attacks on knights and their trainees in the past years and it’s getting worse as time goes on. There are rumors of a bounty on the heads of any knight or their trainee, all someone needs to do to collect would be to hand in some of the knight’s gear, preferably sword.
They go out on a mission together and get ambushed by draquor – a very large demonic race that intends to sacrifice her to their gods. Aden and a new companion he finds along the way, who may or may not be trustworthy, are trying to rescue Ohn’na from the draquor before it’s too late. While they are out on their mission the Citadel was attacked, there are armies of undead swarming through the knights training grounds/homes
Frafnar is a minor POV that starts off with a very brief introduction and slowly becomes more involved in the story. He’s a half orc/half human who once was training to be a part of the same Order that Aden is involved with. He left under mysterious circumstances a few years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. They are linked telepathically, and neither knows why just yet, they run into each other via random happenstance and end up stranded in the woods together. He’s working as Aden’s companion/guide of sorts, but since you get both POV’s you know that Frafnar has joined with a demon and is slowly losing his mind. He tries to fight the urges his demose whispers to him, but he’s losing his grip on himself and you’re never sure which way he’s going to go. Normally, orcs worship demons and have no magical ability themselves but since he’s half human he’s able to wield magic.
It’s clear early on this is a high fantasy story with talk of elves, dwarves, magic, and other things in the first chapter. There aren’t many mixed-blood individuals but there are some, there’s a half dwarf and a half-elf in the Avant Guard, and Frafnar of course is half orc. There are ridable wyvernkin which are related to dragons but smaller and not as intelligent. I liked the wyvernkin’s personalities (kind of cat-like) and how excited Aiden was to ride them, it brought a lot of old-school iwannarideadragon feels. I also appreciated how they don’t die, since they’re summoned creatures they just port back to their own realm to heal. The Avant Guard tames them and rides them so they are pretty commonplace and kind of behave like cats. Some of the Remnant use giant crows called corves, bright red eyes and big enough to be able to fly with an orc riding them. The Avant Guard have a special talent for using all of the different sorts of magic, not being limited to just one like most magic users.
The writing in this was pretty straightforward and helped with the pacing, the dialogue was okay, nothing that made me fall out of the story but not gripping enough for high marks. The pacing was steady and quick, there was always something going on, and the downtime from fight scenes were interesting enough to keep me turning pages.
Overall I liked this, it has a very classic feel to it with a mentor/trainee relationship taking center stage and familiar races like elves, dwarves, dragons etc. This will be for people who like coming of age stories set in epic high fantasy.
- classic fantasy races – elves, dwarves, orcs
- monsters – draquor, goblins, demons
- third person writing
- fast-paced with lots of action
- lots of magic (mysterious)
- in-training master/student relationships
- Plot: 12.5/15
- Characters: 11/15
- World Building: 12/15
- Writing: 10/15
- Pacing: 12.5/15
- Originality: 11.5/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 7.25/10
Final Score: 76.25/100 or 3.81/5 GR stars