October 17, 2016
The Mighty, Book 1 Of The Druid’s Guise is one of those rare fantasy tales that takes you to another plane while keeping you firmly grounded in our reality. Most fantastic tales, even the best ones, often take characters from our reality and plunge them into a magical world, separating them from their normal lives entirely, only to return them at the end having completed their quest. The Mighty takes you on the journey, but plants your feet firmly in the present, real world. While the character grows and accomplishes the tasks set in front of him, it is clear from the outset that this is an introduction to a sprawling universe that has much more to give us. This is a book that will scratch the adventuring itch as well as remind you that the world we come from is itself a broken and unjust place. Wyatt is a hero in both of these planes.
The story begins with Wyatt as a new patient/student at a school for children with special psychological needs. To Wyatt, he alternates existence in this world and the land of Hagion, where he is believed to be a powerful wizard and combat tactician, and not just a boy without a home who likely lies somewhere on the autism spectrum.
Wyatt’s journey can be taken as a coming-of-age tale for those who see themselves in captivity. It is a bildungsroman that takes place in the mind, and the depth and reality of Hagion is indeed seen almost entirely through the eyes of our protagonist, who we are shown from the outset might not be entirely in control of his cognition. This allows the reader to give as much credence to the fantastical elements as they like. Is Wyatt really a transplanar avatar, imposing his will across vast distances of time and space? Or is he a young and unwell child, abandoned and coping by escaping from reality? The book will pull you in both directions, and Wyatt’s story hits all of the emotional notes.
The supporting cast of characters compliments both worlds. In the children’s home of Shephard’s Crook, Wyatt is antagonized by bullies, managed by a staff of volunteers and social workers and befriends a girl with a troubled past named Athena. In the fantasy realm, he is beset upon by all manner of fantastic beasts, ranging from half-flora/half-fauna fern wolves to the undead Fallen and the ominous Regents. He makes friends in the form of Mareck and Gareck, two golem-like beings who call themselves Children, in service to the Mother. He also meets a character that is very much like Athena in the Draygan (a half-dragonlike race) Rozen. At the beginning we are told that the world of Hagion is a vast and fantastic place, and a map Wyatt wields (albeit poorly) reveals locations like The Barren Plains, The Endless Sea, Krémnos, The Wastes, The Shadow Forest, Ouranos, Mesos, and the Peaks of Servitude. Fans of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien will find lots to like about the main quest, punctuated with gritty action sequences that will have you imagining them taking place on the big screen. The pacing is good for an adventure tale, and the dialogue is sharp and funny. The book is well-edited overall and great care has been taken to shape the world of Hagion.
The Mighty, Druid’s Guise Book I sets up a series with a lot of room to grow. The characters we are introduced to are quirky, but have a lot of depth. The places we are brought to are brilliantly realized and the author’s attention to detail is reminiscent of the great classics of fantasy. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, and give this first adventure of Wyatt, The Mighty 5 stars.
Reviewed by Katt Pemble –
Who doesn’t love a plucky young heroine who bucks the trend in terms of propriety and generations of tradition?
Disney is doing it more and more these days, to great success, and Sally Slater has also done so.
Sam (Lady Samantha of Haywood) is a young woman who certainly knows her own mind. She’s stubborn, cheeky and a bit too rambunctious for her own good sometimes. But hey, a girl’s gotta stand up for herself.
I liked Sam, quite a lot more than I expected to. You know, you go into a Young Adult Fantasy with the expectation that you might not quite ‘get’ the protagonist because you’re not a young adult anymore… too many stories have had protagonists that come across as too young and silly. But not Sam, no, she was a great character. She had her silly moments (as everyone does) but she was also strong and snarky, while at the same time – and I don’t know how Sally did this – vulnerable and sweet in the same breath.
I am so glad that this book didn’t go where I was expecting it to in regard to the love interest. I was totally prepared to roll my eyes and sigh, but Sally didn’t do that. Instead she chose the path less travelled. She made Sam’s choices realistic, hard and fraught with danger. I loved that.
I also liked how Sam and her band of merry men and half-demons didn’t get everything they wanted to get or do everything they wanted to do. This meant that they had to work for their goals, when faced with adversity they did the unexpected and sometimes they didn’t win. I loved that some of the personal choices the characters made were negative and had real impacts on those around them. It was like watching the story unfold for real people.
The plot was spot on. The pacing perfection. The writing almost flawless. Humour and silliness even occurred in measured and amusing doses throughout the story too. So, why not 5 stars then?
I couldn’t help feeling that there was something missing: other strong female characters. We have one other female character that plays a nice role and I like her (I have an idea how she’ll come in to play in the rest of the series which I hope comes to fruition) but it felt as if the women were becoming extinct. And that was a let down.
A couple of things I noticed:
79% – I would have though(t) the ten years I spent in his company…
88% – …and it didn’t (take) long to talk himself…
**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**