Book 1 - The Ruins on Stone Hill
Rating: 6/6 stars
Synopsis: Magic is Easy or so Glolindir thought, until he came face to face with his first live monster. Casting spells was not so simple with death breathing down his neck. His story might have ended there if not for three gifted youths: Seth, the mysterious halfling with the moves of an assassin; Lloyd, the spiritblade whose fiery swords are whirlwind-fast; and Aksel, the gnome whose very touch can heal.
Yet that was just the beginning of their adventures, for dark shadows loom over the little town of Ravenford. The townsfolk quickly turn to these newcomers, who may indeed be their only hope. From the old ruined keep southwest of town to hidden caves in the western hills, through dark tunnels, secret passages, concealed rooms and magical mirrors, they must face mythical monsters, evil creatures, and dark wizards, each more perilous than the last. Can they rise to the challenge and become the Heroes that the people of Ravenford so sorely need?
The Beginning: Through a caravan raid by orcs, you are introduced to the main characters, the Heroes, right off the bat. I like that a lot. There was no waiting around to learn about the book heroes and the story started on a roll. It wasn't a bang, but it was a roll, and I walked away from the first chapter with a very good sense of who each of the characters were, and I stepped into the second chapter already liking them and eager to go on an adventure with them.
The Characters: The characters were very well fleshed out and very easy to relate to on a number of levels (I even have a fictional crush on one of them... oops. Did I just think that out loud??). Each one had his own clear-cut, colorful personality which fit him, they each had a different history, and each one filled a very important role in their "team". So often, a group of characters come together and someone gets left out because they don't exactly fit in. NOT the case with this bunch. They each fall into their own role very smoothly and easily and no one is ever left out. I like that a lot.
The only thing that bugged me about the characters was this: each one of the characters seemed to be without family ties. Glo, the elf, has had a falling out with his dad. Lloyd, the warrior, seems to have been close to his family, but he also seems to have distanced himself from them. Aksel and Seth, the gnome and halfling, seem to have no family at all.
I understand that heroes have family issues, or no family at all. My own hero in my own book has that problem. And, I also understand that this seems to be what draws all the heroes together in this book: that need for a family. But, for me personally as a reader, I like to see a few of the characters who are close to their family and are on good terms with their family, even if they are miles away from them. They just add something to a story.
Anyway, that is just a petty little thing that sorta bugs me, but is not a threat to my relationship with this book. I can live with it.
All the heroes are male, and I was very happy that all of them (excepting Seth, who is just... special.) are the perfect example of manly chivalry (*pokes my character* Keegan, you should take lessons from them). I personally like manly characters who take chivalry seriously.
The brief female appearances in the book were refreshing, for me. They brought in a touch of humor as they embarrass the heroes periodically with their flirtatious nature, and they just made the book all the more light-hearted and pleasant with their entrances. Plus, they were realistic. I tire of the macho women in fantasy. It's refreshing to find some who are just like real real girls: silly, funny, and cute.
The Plot: The general plan is for the Heroes to establish a firm reputation in the town of Ravenford and live out their combined dream, which is to use their special gifts and powers to help others (or get rich...*cough* Seth *cough*). They do this by completing quests and gathering items and artifacts (any online gamers reading this?). The plot thickens when the heroes not only establish a good reputation as monster-slayers, but also stumble across a potentially nasty and mysterious plot, setting the story up for book two quite smoothly.
The World: Thac, the world in this story... I just can't get enough of it! It is well built, seems to have a solid history, and is very colorful. All the fun is located mainly around one town on the map (which I would like to someday see a map of the town, along with the surrounding country... someday...). Each of the characters originally came from completely different ends of the map. So, even though everything is happening in one little bitty area, you are aware that there is a bigger world around the heroes. This is nice, because it allows for surprises and it also promises more stories later.
There is just one thing I should warn some of my readers about before they step into this world: the theologies. There is a polytheism system to Thac (polytheism = belief in or worship of more than one god), but yet most of the people in Thac seem to just pick out ONE of the gods and worship that single one. The different gods are only referred to periodically and the fact is not pushed. The different gods mentioned are just a part of the story that help the reader connect the dots to different characters and their powers.
The fact that this was in the book did not disturb me at all, particularly since I have to deal with polytheism beliefs in real life anyway and have seen how they've shaped cultures and people throughout history (for better or worse).
The Writing: F.P. Spirit's writing style is colorful, descriptive, and smooth. I keep using the world "colorful", don't I? Well, that is the only word I can find to describe the imagination of the world and characters. They are not the bland little pawns on a little map, running around in a town full of zombies, all smashed together on black and white paper in a book. There is personality! Flare! Uniqueness! There is color!
Read it for yourself if you don't believe me...
I also like how Mr. Spirit is able to transition moods quite easily in his writing. He is also very descriptive in explaining the fantasy elements and magic in the story, but not so much as to weigh down the mind with a bunch of useless information.
I must warn that there was an instance, at the end, where one of the characters used a semi-cuss word, "jack**s", to describe a bad person that they had to deal with. This disappointed me a little, because, up until that point, no bad language had been used. However, it would not keep me from reading this book to my siblings and it did not mess up the story.
The Ending: The end left the reader and characters with another mystery to unravel, which built the interest for a second book. However it wrapped things up nicely and left the reader with a satisfied, happy feeling that all was right with the world.
The Bottom Line: This is an excellent, clean, well written book that fantasy lovers (and especially gamers) will enjoy. It was easy to read, the flow of the story was smooth, the characters were enjoyable, and the plot was strong and refreshing.
This is sitting right next to Lord of the Rings as my favorite book, and I will certainly recommend it to any fantasy lovers out there!
Book 2 - The Serpent Cult
Author: F.P. Spirit
Rating: 5/6 stars
Synopsis: The Heroes have returned to Ravenford, where a new threat looms on the horizon. The Serpent Cult is on the rise, and they have targeted Ravenford. Who are these cultists and what are they after?
Before the Heroes can find out, they are sent away on another mission. Ships have been disappearing off the coast and rumors abound. Why did the Lucky Coin sink? Was there really a sea monster? Is the Cape Marlin Lighthouse actually deserted? And who are the three sisters and what is their secret? Are they somehow involved in all of this?
Once again join Glolindir, Aksel, Seth, Lloyd, and Elladan as they follow a twisted trail of intrigue and danger. It is a path on which they will face armies of monsters, horrifying demons, fearsome dragons, deadly assassins, evil mages, and, perhaps worst of all, diplomatic officials.
Can the Heroes overcome these obstacles or will the town of Ravenford suffer a fate worse than death?
The Beginning: The first chapter does a lot of recapping, and it does so from the townspeople point of view, which was an interesting twist, I thought. It starts off right where book one left off, with the heroes walking into town after completing a successful mission, and the people are very excited to see them.
However, the recapping does not take long, and you are once again with the heroes as they try to unravel the mystery the discovered at the end of book one. But mystery leads to mystery, and by chapter three, you and the heroes are beginning to realize that there is a desperate situation unfolding, but at the same time you are still asking a lot of questions as well as turning the pages to find out what happens.
The Characters: The characters have done a little maturing in this book as compared to when they started out in book one (and a certain romantic relationship seems to be moving along rather nicely). More of their pasts are revealed to the reader, which satisfies a lot of questions regarding the heroes. Also, a few new characters have been introduced! Some of them absolutely irritated me with their mysterious nature and I am DYING to learn more about them (I totally ship Ves and Martan, by the way!). Another elf has been added as well; a romantic, charming, swashbuckling, very ornery elf who is an artist and adds a little more adult-ish humor to the book (and needs a good spanking, in my opinion... I really like him *grins*). To top it off, a tangible mini-antagonist has been added to the story as well... he needs to be fed to a dragon. *snarls at the Dunwynn cronies*
Overall, these new characters add a lot more flavor and spice to the story and I just love how the story is unfolding with them.
The Plot: Smooth and flowing with a lot of mystery and action. Once the heroes get an idea of who is behind all the dastardly plotting, the story begins rolling faster and faster, taking short pauses to mix in humor and fun before charging on to a great battle at the end.
The Writing: In this story, a new group of characters are brought in who are literally racist; they don't like non-human species of people. Mr. Spirit does an excellent job of expressing the pain of such insensitivity by looking at it from our heroes point of view. It really stings when you meet someone who does not like your favorite heroes, just because they aren't human. It stings even worse when you see your hero's heart bleeding on the paper from the insults. (ouch... ouch... sniff, sniff... ouch)
It was slightly disappointing to count 2 cuss words (p*ss) in this book, which is why I have made this a 5 star review and not a 6 star. However, the cuss words are easily skipped over (or marked out). There is also some mild adult humor as well, but isn't anything horrible or overdone and is quite brief. It does add a nice level of amusement for the adults to silently snicker about, but for children, like my siblings (2 boys & 2 girls, ages 8-15), they don't get the joke and they are left in the dark (or, in my brother's case, they get it all TOO well).
The story flow, though, is perfect. Again, I commend F.P. Spirit on smoothly transitioning his moods, keeping the story rolling, and including ALL of the characters.
I also just have to add that my dragons are most impressed with Calipherous. He was well written and is as regal as any in the dragon race. I can't wait to meet him again!
The Ending: It was all too soon. I reached the last chapter and was like "Wha...? NOOOO! It can't be the end! WHAT HAPPENS?!?!"
Needless to say, it ended on somewhat of a cliff hanger. Not one of those cliff hangers where you are running to the edge of the cliff screaming "I HATE AUTHORS!!" but one of those cliff hangers that leave you drooling and snarling for the next book.
However, by the end, the day was won, many of the mysteries were solved, and our heroes are mostly intact.
Note, I said MOSTLY.
The Bottom Line: Just like the first book, The Serpent Cult is a great read, crammed full of great characters, a pinch of mystery, and a load of fun! It is certainly on my favorites list!