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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a hidden gem, 5 Aug 2013
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This review is from: House of Blades (The Traveler's Gate Trilogy Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I came across this novel through the recommendations listed on a previous purchase and decided to give it a chance, despite the sample text size being bigger than usual, and the narrative immediately engaged me. There was just something enthralling about the perspective of Simon which made me care about his survival, even though he was not coming across as the sort of protagonist we instantly sense will somehow be great. Compared to someone like Kvoethe from "The Name of the Wind", whose brilliance we glimpse at an early stage, the mettle we expect from Simon is a long time coming. Unlike Kvoethe, Simon's parents are not conveniently killed, enabling him to move on with his life unfettered; instead, he is saddled with looking after his mother after the tragic events which unfold in the opening chapter, and because of this, he is not as strong or daring as he should be by the time soldiers sent by Overlord Malachi visit his village Myria with the intention of gathering the annual sacrifice.

Rather than Simon saving the village with an old sword he barely gets to practise with, it is his childhood friend and rival Alin who manages to confront the soldiers and their Traveller Cormac with a sudden burst of magic. Not only that, but even the one girl Simon likes has more courage and authority than he does in a village burning down. Ashamed to discover his weaknesses, Simon returns to Latari Forest, the location of his parents' demise and the place where he last saw the Traveller who helped him long ago, to request the Traveller's tutelage. Kai, a quizzical swordsman with a seven-foot blade, encounters Simon first and takes up the challenge of training the boy as a fully fledged Traveller. Of course, not everything is straight forward under Kai's enigmatic guidance - it takes everything Simon has to survive and figure things out in the territory known as "Valinhall". Eventually, Simon proves himself to such an extent that he is granted some powers, but there is more to things than just rescuing the village from some annual sacrifice. There is a prophecy claiming that a Traveller from Elysia will appear, and Leah, the one girl Simon likes and still wants to rescue, is much more than she seems.

Without going into further detail than that, "House of Blades" is beyond doubt a surprising and interesting debut. The author may not use high fantasy to communicate the plot or the depth of his characters, but the simplicity of description can go a long way in visually aiding the reader with vividly colourful battle scenes, as well as to make a humorous dig at the fantasy memes we all know and love, yet sometimes wish did not take themselves so seriously. I have several favourite moments where this comes into play, such as Simon climbing out of the trap door after visiting the Nye in Valinhall, the moment he catches his cloak on a weathervane, and those little instances of jealousy where Simon and Alin look at each other, thinking they are trying to out-do one another. It all serves for an enjoyable experience and a novel so engaging that you cannot put it down.

For female readers, there is something more to the girls and women who feature in this story. Naturally there are times when they will fall within the categories they're meant to, given their specific roles, but these categories by no means confine their actual independence. Leah, for example, conceals her true strength for reasons later revealed and plays along with the "maiden in distress" image being imposed by Alin and others; while Andra, a helpless little girl in Orgith Cave, turns out to have a sense of humour at the worst of times and can hold her own when required. I'm not pushing a feminist agenda here by rolling eyes at a supposed gender infraction; I am simply gratified that a shift has emerged in new fantasy fiction - it is one that implements the full humanity available to characters and allocates roles according to what each character can offer to the whole, and not because they are prescribed by the genre of fantasy.

In reading this book, I have come to respect a new generation of author and strongly anticipate the next instalment "The Crimson Vault" due out August 10, according to the author's website. The editing is good, the proofreading thorough, and the Kindle Edition offers what a professional release should (there are those who fail to even publish decent maps or neglect to index their chapters, but I shan't go into that).

All in all, I thank Will Wight from the bottom of my heart for writing such a good story.
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