A dishonored, exiled young man befriends elves and finds love in the conclusion to Ponder’s Cel’mystry Diaries trilogy (A Great Red Bow, 2011, etc.).
Before he was given the name Michal, he was the son of a powerful ruler, a warrior priest known as Busshidoe who worships the Great God of War. When he refuses to take part in a vicious act initiated by his father, he is tortured and left for dead. Somehow he survives and reaches Nadirmoon, where his life is renewed due in large part to his “heart father,” Jubal, and brother, Seth. While working in a trade caravan, Michal encounters elves and develops a fondness for them, sharing with them an ability to mind-speak and a membership in an organization to protect the world of Cel’mystry, The Brotherhood of the Winged One. The author is more invested in the characters’ evolution than the story, and she fleshes out the relationships among them with a strong, capable voice. The emphasis on character is appropriate, since the novel is presented as Michal’s journal. Ponder devotes the most extensive chapter to the elves as they travel to see their ailing grandfather, a quest that Michal asks to join. The author zealously layers the plot with details, introducing Su’lin, who has ties to Michal’s somber past, and Rapine, the Ogre King leading an army on a rampage across the land whose geographical target, Longlearning, is already regarded as doomed. The protagonist is commendable, but he is surpassed by the hearty characters of Redbow, an elf called the Silent One who never speaks—except in mind-speak and with nonverbal language—and Sheer’An, whose short stature belies her bustling nature and strength.
Earnest, likable characters imbue this fantasy with equal amounts of imagination and sincerity.