Saturday, 5 March 2011

Zoolin Vale and the Chalice of Ringtar by Craig Smith

December 2010, Stone Garden 
272 pages, Paperback & ebook   
Review copy (PDF galley copy)


Friendly trolls, ogres, a skeleton pirate ship, lots of trials involving magic, wizards, a dragon, a quest, lots of tension, strange foes, lots of humour, an imp, a kingdom

Book blurb 

A thief in the night. A missing sacred artifact. An evil warlord from ancient history, out to rule the world. These are only a few of the problems facing Tennen, the newly appointed Lord Protector of Melin. Thrown into a desperate race against time, Tennen, his dragon friend Berrinn, and his men chase the thief and his mysterious companion over land and sea to a cursed island where they try to wrench the Chalice of Ringtar from the enemy’s hands before it’s too late. All while under the watchful eye of a mysterious black hawk.

Meanwhile, searching for his family that had been taken from their home by the enemy during the war in Elfwood, Devlin and his friends face mounting danger as they travel through war torn Welkland to find them. Battling ogres, befriending a rambunctious imp, and even competing for the crown of Welkland in a grand contest, Devlin finds a little more than he bargained for, something that will change his life forever.

Nayuleska's thoughts
This book takes well known elements in the fantasy realm and uses them to create an entertaining read. I liked how the book followed the two characters. That really heightened the intensity, especially when at least one, if not both, of the groups were in grave danger. I felt that I really got to know Tennen as a person. He has got such a prestigious role, but really he's fairly ordinary and doesn't see himself as others see him. He's sensible because he practices defending himself against magic, without the use of the stone which is in his possession. I feel that in the course of the novel he starts to accept the role he has, and although he doesn't necessarily like doing so, he calls on the benefits that role bestows him. I loved his dragon friend, who proved very useful in the quest in the later stages of the book. However, initially Berrin wasn't mentioned much. After his first mention, Tennen wasn't in touch with him for several chapters, which considering how helpful he is, I found that a little bit strange. After that though he became a regular feature, and I loved learning all the skills he had. 

Devlin gets into just as many scrapes as Tennen does. It's so funny because for a while, wherever they go they managed to cause trouble so were worried about which route they would return by. I think my favourite moments with them was with the competition to become king. I'd have liked to see all the trials explained as they happened, rather than being retold later on to characters who couldn't compete. However the trials are really clever and meant that only a person worthy of being a leader gained the crown. I got teary eyed when Devlin finally meets his family. 

Overall, this is a book I heartily recommend. It's not too dark and heavy, although some descriptions of the monsters had me wanting to run for cover. I really want a magic tent which provides enough room and resources no matter how many people need to use it. There were a few clunky sentences, but I read a proof copy so they've probably been ironed out now. Also there wasn't a lot of mention about the mysterious hawk, who I still don't know what it is. It certainly suggests there are more tales about Tennen and Devlin to be told. The content is clean and generally family friendly, so this is good for all readers. 

Final conclusion 
A fun sword and sorcery fantasy read, which lures you into a false sense of security and then springs unexpected problems and foes onto the two teams who are both on a quest. 

Suggested reads
Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold! by Terry Brooks, a very funny fantasy novel. 
Midshipwizard Halycon Blithe by James M Ward, another sword and sorcery read

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