This is going to be different from my usual book reviews for several reasons:
- It is a fantasy book and I really almost never ever read fantasy (I sound a bit like Lola, don’t I?)
- I know the author, so it comes with a disclaimer that I was probably always going to like it at least a bit because I know how hard she worked to bring it to fruition.
- It is self-published; whereas the bulk of books I review here are slick, new releases from big publishing houses.
These three things do influence the way I’ve interacted with Elven Jewel – the first of the Hunters of Reloria series from Brisbane writer Kasper Beaumont – but, with all disclaimers aside, it’s a rollicking read for mature younger readers (so, around 11+) and will tick all the right boxes for fans of fantasy fiction.
The story is set on the continent of Reloria, which is threatened by creepy invaders (the Vergai). The Vergai intend to destroy the elven forcefield that protects peaceful Reloria and conquer the lands for themselves. The key to this magical defence system is the Elven Jewel, which the Vergai are intent on stealing. Into the picture come our heroes Randir and Fendi, two farm-dwelling halflings, who find themselves on a quest to save the jewel. Along the way they befriend dwarves, elves, men and a dragon and face the Vergai together as the Hunters of Reloria.
Let’s start at the beginning then. I respect fantasy writing, but I can’t say I really like it. I admire the creativity and I thoroughly enjoy some of the quirky characterisation that comes with the genre, but I find the quest narratives predictable and repetitive. BUT it’s important not to confuse predictability with a lack of originality. In many ways predictability is a good thing in literature; as readers, we like to know that there will be a happy ending or satisfactory resolution to the conflicts at the core of the story. Fantasy literature always provides this sort of satisfaction – even if it sometimes takes several books of a series to get there! Like many fantasy books, Elven Jewel is beautifully original, even if it’s still predictable, and Beaumont has an impressive ability to conjure vivid images of the land and its inhabitants.
Elven Jewel follows a traditional fantasy narrative format, which is exactly as it should be for the target age group. There are colourful characters, a quest, a prize and a battle. Young readers often choose books they already know will fit their particular tastes, which is in fact good for their vocabulary and reading confidence because they spend more time enjoying the story and less time forcing themselves to appreciate a genre that doesn’t resonate with them. Fantasy fiction is particularly potent with adolescent readers, too, because it is filled with moral lessons. Every fantasy quest narrative is, in a way, a book-long metaphor for the discovery of the self – with good friends, bad decisions, and unexpected pot holes along the way. The themes of friendship and camaraderie in adversity are strong in Elven Jewel as we see Randir and Fendi support each other through periods of jealousy and resentment as well as good times during their quest. The moral voice is accentuated by the addition of ‘bond fairies’ who are attached to the Halflings and provide a little yin to their yang as they overcome obstacles. Other fantasy books I’ve read have similar spirit guides or totem animals connected to key players – Philip Pulman’s Northern Lights series springs to mind – and I really enjoy the idea of having a conscience/trouble maker watching every action from the sideline.
Elven Jewel has enough twists and turns to keep any reader engaged till the end and Beaumont’s descriptions of her fictional world are evocative. I enjoyed the fact that the Jewel was revealed quite early in the story to be something other than what the Halflings (and the reader) expect and I found the dialogue witty, entertaining and age appropriate for the target market. Beaumont is a mother herself and clearly has a good ear for what will engage readers in this age group.
In terms of being self-published, it means that this is not a flawless book. Beaumont is naturally a very good writer, and has given this work her utmost care and attention, but there are bits and pieces that a professional publishing house would probably edit out. What that means, though, is that you’re reading an example of raw creativity, which hasn’t been dulled down and bent out of shape by an editor who needs to feed a particular ‘market’. With any luck you’re also reading the blueprint for what will one day become a huge commercial success! Get a copy now so you can say you read it BEFORE it was cool. Go Kasper!
Elven Jewel is available as an ebook from Amazon.com [click here] but will be going into print in the near future. Keep an eye out!
Kasper Beaumont is also running a fantasy art competition for young readers and you have about 3 days to get your entries in! Encourage the youngsters in your life to have a go. There are cash prizes!!
I received a complimentary copy of this novel to review, but all opinions are, as always, my own.
This review forms part of my contribution to the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge.
Kasper Beaumont is also just one of many generous souls who have contributed to my fundraising efforts for Bust A Move for Breast Health. Want to know more? Click here.