Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor

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Synopsis: Hope is a fragile thread. Imprisoned for over four-hundred years, the Arneisian people tenuously held onto that thread. Generations were born and generations died. Sons were Chosen and given to the sorcerers who imposed the chains of slavery on their people, hoping the one foretold would Return to lead them from their prison. The thread of hope is tested as a new group of boys is Chosen. Their secrets will free the Arneisians or break that thread forever. The survival of a magical forest is in the hands of a young brother and sister. A father refuses to accept their destiny, and fights to protect them from the dark creatures who hunt them. A husband and wife only hope to reunite as he leads an army while she attempts to uncover spies for her king. Their futures, as well as the fate of kingdoms, hang in the balance as a boy fights to fulfill his destiny amid the gathering storms of war.

Review:  Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor is an impassioned epic fantasy with a multi-layered, in-depth plot encompassing a complex world filled with intriguing characters, creatures, and magic.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons begins after a devastating war. Once the Arnesians were defeated, their king, Je’Hail Mulnaro, had to surrender his life along with his wife, and last Truthseer in exchange for his people’s survival. Although they’d foreseen that The Ones (their enemy) wouldn’t hold true to this agreement, it was the only chance to save his people. After insuring his children were hidden and safe, King Mulnaro prepared a journal and a few magical objects he hoped would aid his people in the future to free them from The Ones and the darkness they serve.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor is an extremely detailed tale with a host of characters. The story is told from numerous points of view throughout the world. After the initial betrayal and the imprisonment of the Arnesians, we learn what The Ones’ plans for these once powerful people are. If they can find a prophesized child amongst the Arnesians, they can unleash the true darkness. In order to do this, they ‘choose’ young men each year from their prisoners that show a particular magical ability. Over the centuries of the Arnesians imprisonment, The Ones have bastardized history, filling the past with alternate facts where the Arnesians were evil aggressors and The ‘goodly’ Ones barely survived their genocidal attempts. Most Arnesians hate their ancestors for these evil acts and praise The Ones for allowing them to live, and giving them the opportunity to redeem their people.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons is far too complex with the different guilds, kingdoms, beasts, sentient forest, magic users, mythos, and betrayals to do it justice in a short review. It was an engrossing read with numerous interesting characters both ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ I’ll be looking for the next novel to see what’s become of some of my favorite characters and creatures alike.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

The Grey Mage by Aidan Hennessy

The Grey MageSynopsis: Before he was the Archmage, he was the Exile…

Driven from his home and made a slave, Aelzandar flees his captors in an unknown land. As the natives turn against him and threaten his life, he is saved by a mysterious cadre who dwell in the Tower of the Magi.

Welcomed into this brethren, he is introduced to their enigmatic master, the Grey Mage Cassian. In this place, Aelzandar feels at peace for the first time in decades.

Aelzandar’s tranquil new life is short-lived when a discovery in the tower destroys this utopian society and drives a wedge through Aelzandar’s new comrades. Deserted by his students and friends, Cassian looks to Aelzandar for help, but what can one slave do against the power of the divine?

Review: The Grey Mage by Aidan Hennessy pulls you in immediately with the pursuit of an escaped elf, Aelzandar, by his Qardleean slavers. Though a short read, The Grey Mage isn’t lacking in action, well-defined characters or interesting plot developments. It’s a novella you could read in one evening and want to read again.

After Aelzandar encounters two spellweavers, Donal and Pedr, he’s both grateful and bemused. He wasn’t accustomed to mere human barbarians being blessed with such abilities. However, he learns that their master, Cassian the Grey, sent them to liberate him and escort Aelzandar to his tower (which is an ancient ruin of Eldaran elves) where Cassian teaches his students the Art. During a cursory meeting with Cassian and his paramour Vanaja, Aelzandar agrees to remain as the “school’s” cook in exchange for his lodging. But when he’s invited to an excavation in the west wing, some extraordinary developments unfold that shape the remaining story and his future. A secret room, a powerful relic, and an ancient evil manipulate a few to conquer the many. A battle of good vs evil ensues and the victor isn’t necessarily predetermined.

With fast action, relatable characters, secret portals to a forbidden land, and magical battles, The Grey Mage by Aidan Hennessy is an enjoyable and engaging story. There weren’t any huge plot twists or surprises, but it didn’t need them. It was an intriguing read with a satisfying end. I’m looking forward to more.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

Book Review: Diary of a Dead Man by David Listzwan

Dead Man
Synopsis: What would happen if you woke up one day and you couldn’t remember anything at all? Even worse then that, some people are telling you that you are dead. Daron knows not only how that feels, but also what it’s like to be told you held the fate of all life. No one likes to be told they are the Chosen One.

Follow Daron through a magical quest and learn why God created life and death in the first place. Be there with him as he stops Gods children (the Angels and Dragons) from destroying everything out of the name of jealousy. Learn the inevitable fate of mankind.

Review: What happens when a Chosen One awakens in a “heaven” consisting of realms created and controlled by emotion and besieged by god’s disgruntled son? Diary of a Dead Man by David Listzwan opens with this narrative and introduces us to Daron the DragonSlayer: a dreamer soul awakening in chaos, disguised as paradise.

Diary of a Dead Man is a unique glimpse into a world created and abandoned by god. Upon Daron’s awakening, he’s greeted by two spirits (Jim and Brent) who provide him with an identity and a mission. After receiving a crash course in the rules and abilities of the realms, Daron learns that the reason for his “rebirth” is to slay Lucifer. As difficult as that sounds, his journey to find Lucifer is compounded by manipulation, sacrifice, and subsisting within multiple realms that can fade his soul while corrupting his mind.

Nothing is as it truly appears as he travels the realms and meets the spirits controlling them. After slaying a dragon and receiving a mystical sword and shield, Daron trains in a protected realm overseen by Peter, the guardian of the gate to the Realm of Life. Albeit, the year he spent training with Jim and Peter, allowed some significant changes to occur in the connected realms. Lucifer’s army is growing and Daron must find a way to unite the guardian spirits to prevent Lucifer from destroying all life. Once Daron visits the spirit realms: fear, contempt, lust, guilt, curiosity, etc, the imminent war begins.

Diary of a Dead Man is a different perspective of God, heaven, the angels, and creation itself. David Listzwan constantly challenges what/who is considered “good” and “bad” by reconstructing the beginning of time and God’s role in it. He also uses Daron as a savior of sorts. I was reminded of aspects of the movies Dogma and The Matrix III in numerous instances. It was a unique read with many imaginative concepts. 

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

Book Review: Dragonblood Throne by Tom Fallwell

Dragon Blood
Synopsis: Orphaned as a young child and growing up alone in the forest, Delina lives a life of isolation; her only companion a saber-toothed panther. Her strange eyes frighten those she occasionaly encounters, so she keeps to herself, until a young, wounded warrior ends up at her doorstep. As she nurses him back to health, she discovers she is more than just a young woman with unusual eyes, she is a dragonblood, destined to become the ruler of Almar.

Now hunted by the dark sorcerer who murdered her father, usurped his throne, and killed all her kin, she must find out how she can release the essence of the dragon inside her to defeat him. Everything depends upon her willingness to embrace her legacy and reclaim the Dragon Throne.

Review: Dragonblood Throne Legacy by Tom Fallwell was a very enjoyable fantasy novel. Delina’s character was well-written as were her motivations for multiple decisions she made throughout the story.

After being isolated for most of her life, she struggles to trust a young warrior that she’d nursed back to health. Although she feels an attraction (beyond physical) to him, her dealings with others makes her extremely cautious. With an unknown past and mysterious eyes, she’s been labeled a witch, and lost most of her family due to the same. Her only companion is a saber toothed panther (Morlok) who has protected her since she was a child.

Once Merrick convinces Delina of impending dangers, she journeys with him and learns more about herself and her family. Not only is she a dragonblood, she’s the rightful ruler of Almar. Now, she must choose to embrace her heritage and become who/what she’s meant to be, or she can reject that heritage and succumb to the forces of Kargoth: the malefic usurper who murdered her father.

Dragonblood Throne Legacy is full of magic, fantastical creatures, and intrigue. There were a few places that caused my brow to raise, but the story as a whole is a good one. All of the expected fantasy elements are present with some new creatures called Malcoraths as well. Author Fallwell redefines what a dragon is, and entwines those aspects into a forward-moving plot.

Being a lover of characterization, I’m always searching for “why” a character displays certain behaviors. I never truly understood Kargoth’s motivations for his abominable acts, but that didn’t take away from my reading enjoyment.

Easily 4.5 stars and recommended for fantasy lovers: young and old.