A peaceful nation of humans and their guardians face invasion in this thin fantasy.
When a mysterious army appears on the doorstep of the Branchwater kingdom, nobody is quite sure what to do. There has not been a war for centuries; humans and their guardians, the human-like mantliks, co-exist harmoniously–the humans in the castle town and the mantliks in the surrounding forest. King Dragu, the human ruler of Branchwater, and his brother, Prince Sagu, call upon the mantliks to help defend the castle. Just exactly what these mantliks are, why they exist or how they came to be is not entirely clear–something about a temple and a magic well (indeed, the lack of a coherent background for this fantasy world is a consistent source of frustration). The mantliks are led by Greta Velda, a legendary but lonely warrior who is better at battling enemies than her inner demons. Greta and her son Hugo lead a contingent of mantliks to the castle’s defense. To Greta’s dismay, her niece Desirae tags along. But things are worse than initially thought: The mysterious army is led by Seriana, one of the Anahalmist, a group of seven who in ancient times killed God Almighty and banished humans from the continent. Why are the Anahalmist coming to conquer a people they vanquished so long ago? The answer is overly simplistic and clichÃ©d. Maus makes a valiant effort, but his book is far too insubstantial to satisfy as a fantasy: Branchwater’s world is barely fleshed out, its history is opaque and undeveloped, secondary storylines are paper-thin and characters remain one-dimensional. When Desirae discovers a secret door leading to the castle’s basement, the plot thickens–though it will feel derivative to any reader who has a passing familiarity with the genre–but mediocre prose hinders the narrative as it stumbles to its finish, an anti-climactic battle scene between Seriana and Greta.
An unoriginal storyline and relentless clichÃ©s doom Branchwater.