This debut fantasy novel treads on familiar ground with its tale of an elf who’s prophesied to free her people from the clutches of an evil despot.
As with many other entries in the fantasy genre, the hero of this novel grew up without any knowledge of her destiny. In fact, at the story’s beginning, Beryl isn’t even aware that she’s an elf, much less an elf who’s expected to free the land of Fayen from the clutches of Aegra, who’s nearly reached her goal of wiping out Fayen’s elves. Bell makes her elves distinct: Instead of being born in the traditional sense, they’re spawned and raised by mentors. Each elf is gifted with a particular “blessing,” a linkage with an animal that imbues him or her with a specific power. Aegra has the blessing of the canine, and she twists her power of loyalty to ensure that her thralls are perfectly dutiful. Beryl has the rarest blessing—that of the unicorn, which gives her the ability to heal even the most severe injuries. Readers may find it exciting to watch Beryl’s skills develop as she prepares to come up against the elves’ greatest enemy, but unfortunately, the story drags quite a bit in the middle. The novel often relies on repetitive descriptions; for example, nearly every article of clothing is described as “sturdy.” The dialogue usually sounds appropriately formal and slightly exotic—the slang term for drunkenness, for example, is getting “as quinced as a fish-hand”—but the occasional contemporary colloquialism, such as “one classy woman” or “you ok?” sneaks in, to somewhat jarring effect. Somewhat more disconcerting is the characterization of Fayen’s major religion: The Creator is a direct analogue of the Judeo-Christian God, and Beryl’s questioning of her faith, particularly regarding how to reconcile the Creator’s almighty power with his apparent refusal to prevent the slaughter of elf-kind, uses nearly the precise rhetoric of Christianity. Some readers may find this aspect distracting and unnecessary.
A somewhat predictable story of an elf hero but one that may be a welcome addition to any fantasy lover’s bookshelf.