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5.0 out of 5 stars A Rollicking Fantasy!, 12 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Huw the Bard (Kindle Edition)
This is a rites of passage story, as soft Southern bard Huw Owyn - a victim of political sociopathy and deprived of his parents in a brutal sequence of events - begins a journey away from his pursuers to the distant North of Connie Jasperson's well-realised fantasy country.

The descriptions of Huw's world and the characterisation of Huw are two of the most striking aspects of this work. Ms. Jasperson's world feels like a combination of mediaeval Wales and a Tolkienesque Middle Earth, populated by fabled beasts like the firedrake and roving bands of mercenaries, some good and some very bad. Huw, at first a confused and frightened boy, gradually becomes a man, as he is forced to fight his way to freedom.

Everyone, it seems, is out to get Huw, simply for the fact that he is the last of the Bards and he narrowly escapes capture by a combination of luck and wiliness. He's a good looking boy, so a variety of women will not only give him an an occasional tumble in the hay, but will also help him along his way. Men, too, find him likeable - in more ways than one - and aid his attempted escape from the clutches of Crow mercenaries sent to find and destroy him. Will he get to the North and safety, or will he be killed as the forces of evil close in?

Ms. Jasperson manages to convey the drama of Huw's flight and his confrontation with several deadly perils, without hyperbole and in a laid back, accomplished prose style that creeps up on the reader in a quite enjoyable fashion. Huw and his world feel very real and that is no mean achievement in fantasy writing, some of which is hugely overblown.

All in all this is a rollicking fantasy and a terrific example of the genre. Five stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read!, 26 May 2014
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This review is from: Huw the Bard (Kindle Edition)
This book is like a good film, you can spend so long finding so-so stories that when you do find a really good one, you want to rave about it. I loved this book.

It’s loosely based in Medieval UK, (and judging by the names, Wales) I say loosely because I don’t remember reading about dragons and firedrakes in my history books! It follows Huw the Bard who suffers a tragedy in the opening chapters and has to escape his home to avoid the same fate as his father. You follow Huw from a vacuous youth to a fully rounded adult as he grapples with trials throughout his journey.

I liked that the hero didn’t have magical powers but the world did. The characters had to show ingenuity and not a small amount of bravery to get out of situations that a lesser author might have given their characters powers to just ‘wish’ their enemies away. You wonder if they will survive, who will survive and you will genuinely care if Huw the Bard gets away and finds happiness again.

I recommend this book. If you like historical fiction/fantasy then this is for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Read!, 1 April 2014
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This review is from: Huw the Bard (Kindle Edition)
The youngest master in the Bards Guild, eighteen-year-old Huw Owyn is at the top of his craft. But the artists’ quarter catches fire, forcing Huw to flee the burning city. The turmoil and panic involved in the spread of the fire is portrayed extremely clearly, and you sympathise with all those caught up in it.
The action at the start of the book sets up everything that is to follow. We see Huw’s pain, and grieve with him, at the loss of the rest of the Bard’s Guild – including his own father, the Guild Master. The pain is very real, and while I was proofreading this book, I occasionally had tears streaming down my face. We feel his anger when he learns it wasn’t an accident, and his terror of being discovered as he tries to escape. It’s a 200-league walk, as the crow flies, to the one place he might have a friend, though the path Huw must take is anything but straight and he must face many hardships along the way.
Throughout his journey, we watch Huw grow from a young, vain man used to being the center of attention, into a courageous man who finds he is capable of far more than he ever believed possible. The way Mrs. Jasperson does this is so life-like, you often expect him to leap off the page. But her amazing characterisation isn’t limited to the main protagonist, the vast array of supporting cast have all received the same attention to detail; regardless of how much time the reader spends with them, you immediately get a sense of who they are.
Although this sounds like a ‘journey of self-discovery’, it is far more than that. There is enough adventure spread throughout to satisfy all but the most bloodthirsty of readers, while not being too gory for those that aren’t partial to violence.
Now, of course, this is a fantasy book, so where would a review be without at least mentioning some of the weird and wonderful creatures Huw encounters on his journey into the wild northlands, the one possible place of safety for him. I could talk about the stupendous firedrake, which is pretty much a small version of a mythical dragon, or the ginormous wood-wraith which looked like an extremely tall tree unless you saw the eyes, or maybe even the fire-sprites. They may not be all that large, even look quite cute, but they’re viciously lethal – so venomous that you have to wash a sword in water at least two times before it is safe enough to sheath after killing one.
There is a wide spread of diverse issues addressed in this story. From murder and rape, to treason, and even homosexuality – all are handled with the utmost delicacy by Jasperson so you know exactly how her characters feel about each of them, as well as society’s view, through the eyes of Huw and the narrator. The author has hit the perfect balance in every aspect of this book. I can’t wait to see what else is in store in the rest of the series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read, 1 April 2014
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This review is from: Huw the Bard (Kindle Edition)
I have to say, this is one of the most unusual fantasy books I’ve read in a long time. Set in an alternate medieval dimension, it is chock full of adventure, treason, rape, murder, and magical creatures the like of which I’ve never before encountered.

The main strength of this book, apart from the wonderful storytelling, is the depth of characterisation given to Huw. He is an eighteen-year-old bard at the height of his craft when disaster strikes and he is forced to flee the city he has called home since before reaching double digits. With nothing but the clothes on his back, Huw, now a wanted man, must make his way to safety if he wants to survive.

As you take every step with Huw, you feel his pain, desolation, joy, and sorrow, and by the end of the book, he’s become a friend to treasure. Jasperson has crafted her main character richly; you see his transformation from a talented, spoilt, and somewhat vain young man who’s used to being fawned over and adored, to a humbled, desperate, penniless one who finds courage and a good heart.

At no time is the emotion overdone; it is layered with sufficient detail for the reader to empathise with each situation Huw finds himself in and, in my opinion, strikes just the right balance.

Each of the supporting cast is given definable personalities and, along with Huw, leap off the page.

The world-building is expertly designed and described in colourful detail. The magical creatures are, in some ways, the stuff from nightmares yet in the author’s skilled hands, they are believable and realistic.

The plot is adventurous and well outlined. There is never a point when a reader will not want to turn the page to see what’s going to happen next, yet it’s not a ‘fun and frolics’ type of adventure (although there are a few amusing bits). There’s plenty of sadness, guilt, anger, and revenge, to accompany the bravery, battles, romance and light-hearted banter.

Already a big fan of Jasperson’s work, Huw the Bard, took me in an unexpected direction, showing what a versatile fantasy author she is. Would I recommend it? Hell yeah! I loved this book!
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Huw the Bard
Huw the Bard by Connie Jasperson
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