This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

03 June, 2014

REVIEW: BANISHED

Cover design by Jo Thomson using Shutterstock images.

BANISHED
THE BLACKHART LEGACY: BOOK ONE
BY
LIZ DE JAGER

ISBN: 978-4472-4765-4
Pages: 387
Publisher: Tor UK
Published: 27 February 2014

On the cover:

A Blackhart's Calling:
to banish evil and hold back the night

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she's living with her unorthodox cousins and sharing their strange lives. Especially since their home-schooling includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons.

But it's not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn's enemies.

As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves - it's that or lose everyone she's learnt to love.


   What do you get if you cross Urban Fantasy, Fairy Tale retelling, Lovecraftian Elder Gods, and add a bit of romance? Well, if you are Liz de Jager you'd have the mix necessary to write a great book.

   After a very nice introduction to our main character, Kit Blackheart, we quickly learn about how special she is. This may give you a moments pause, it did for me, there are a lot of characters that have something special about them or who outright are the chosen one in modern Urban Fantasy/Portal Fantasy. (Harry Potter arguably belongs to that "slash"-genre.) Actually, that is an unnecessary worry. It didn't take long before I completely forgot about it, and it doesn't come into play in that sense in the story.
   Kit is nowhere near a carbon copy chosen one, she comes across as a fully formed person that isn't necessarily the brightest, strongest, fastest, etc. in the room. And that made her all the better in my opinion. Even though she is not an average young woman, she is very relateable. She seems like the sort of person you will meet at some point in your life, someone who despite what makes her special is not too far removed from someone you might meet in your local bookshop.
   This is the type of Fantasy that demands good characters, and de Jager handles characters very well. Kit isn't the only one that feels very real, all of them comes vividly to life on the page. Even the villains of this story are really fleshed out, and although their motives are definitely otherworldly they make perfect sense in context. Something I feel is a necessity for immersion into Fantasy, and something de Jager delivers on.

   Characters aren't everything in Urban Fantasy/Portal Fantasy, and once you are satisfied they are up to scratch (, which they certainly are here), what you usually look at is the setting. The Fae world as a setting predates Fantasy as a genre, and it takes a deft touch to use it without it feeling stale. De Jager manages it with aplomb though. It's clear that she has done her research, but she has made her own spin on the source material, the myths and Fairy Tales, and made a world of her own that feels fresh to the reader.
   Infodumping can sometimes be a problem in Fantasy, de Jager manages to avoid it by integrating it very well into the text. A lot of information is passed to the reader in conversations and other character interactions, but it always flows very well and never feels like showing off the structural supports of the story. Some extra bits are left for chapter introductions, and I really liked those. They give lots of interesting little snippets of information that feels like garnish on a good meal.

   So far I've spent a lot of time on the framework the story is built on, the characters and their world, time to move on to the story itself. It's a really fast-paced one. Not that it always moves along at break-neck pace, because it doesn't. There are some passages where we get to know the characters, and discover what is really going on. Those passages are however far from boring. However de Jager has a tendency to drip feed things, and I did get impatient at times. Although I have to stress that it wasn't the bad impatience, but the good type where you just have to keep reading to see what will happen next.
   I said above that this was fast-paced, and there is a lot going on. At times there is so much happening that it leaves you almost breathless. Fortunately de Jager manages to steer the reader through events with a deft hand. Even when there is a multitude of things happening at once the author manages to keep it focused so that it never gets confusing. Tension levels are high throughout, and there are some cliff-hangers that does not make stopping reading a real option. The last quarter of the book is not a good place to take a break from reading, you'll probably need to know how it will end at that point - I did.

   This is an excellent Urban Fantasy novel, especially for those that like a helping of Fairy Tale in their Fantasy. Kit Blackhart is an excellent main character, and the supporting cast are also a joy to get to know. Add in great worldbuilding and a fast-paced story that refuses to let the reader go, and you have the ingredients for what is in my opinion a must-read for fans of both Contemporary Fantasy and Fairy Tale retellings.
   De Jager's debut leaves you with an appetite for more. I am certainly looking forward to the next volume in The Blackhart Legacy.

LINKS: Liz de Jager  PanMacmillan (Tor UK)  Tor UK Blog
  

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