THE SMILING STALLION INN by Courtney Bowen

THE SMILING STALLION INN

Legends of Arria, Volume 1
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The first book in a planned high fantasy series.

Bowen (The Sable Valley, 2013) introduces Coe Baba, a small medieval town with a long history of traditions. Basha, the innkeeper's adopted son is in love with Jawen, the daughter of the town's wealthy merchant. Their secret love affair is about to be made public with Coe Baba's annual courtship ritual. However, when Basha asks for Jawen's hand he makes a bold promise to her, offering her the cup of Tau, a possibly mythical object believed to be in a far distant land. The promise and the verdict of the local oracle set the stage for a quest to be undertaken by Basha and others. While the villagers do not entirely believe in the existence of magic and live simple lives, there are some who seem to touched by magic like Basha and his adoptive brother Oaka. There are also legends surrounding good and evil and an evil figure known as Doomba whose presence makes itself known in Coe Baba through those whose bodies he has invaded. The narrative tends to jump around in time so that certain events such as the courtship ritual can be examined from different perspectives. Immediately after seeing things through Basha's eyes, the narrative jumps back in time to give Jawen's take on the event. While the main portion of the narrative covers only a few days, there are several flashbacks to earlier events. Most of the second half of the book is a series of flashbacks providing detailed explanations of events in Basha's young life and the history of his relationship with Jawen. While the book is primarily told in the third person, there are later chapters written in the first person from the perspective of Nisa, a woman who has for many years watched over Basha without his knowledge. An attempt is made to describe a love triangle with Iibala, another girl interested in Basha, but this comes off feeling like it's been lifted from a modern teen drama. Readers are told, "Basha had been only thirteen or fourteen at the time he started dating Iibala, but he had been worried all of the time that he was dating her that she might leave him, jealous of the other young men who had once dated her." (59) Despite this drama the Basha-Jawen love story seems a bit tepid.

This uneventful novel feels like a prelude to the rest of the saga, setting the stage for events that will come later.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1492153757
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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