Source of the River by Lana Axe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source of the River is a traditional fantasy where young heroes find themselves joining together on a quest while forces of evil oppose them, though in this one, they face the known evil of a discordant spirit in a dwarvish mine and the unknown evil of a power hungry sorcerer that has taken an interest in River, the main character. Their quest to solve one problem puts them in danger from the other.
One of my favorite things about this story is the abundance of positive female role models. The dwarf girl, Kaiya, is perhaps the most charismatic of the characters. She is strong, independent, and determined to break free of the standard gender roles in her village. Lenora, an elvish girl who is also a healer, also displays an admirable breaking of the mold. Instead of settling down in town and learning all she knows from her mother (also a healer), she's out learning everything about her chosen craft, smart and focused on her goals. Even Kaiya's mom, though she's chosen the traditional wife and mother role in the dwarvish village, steps up to the challenges facing her people and helps Lenora with the sick.
Among the cast of bad guys, Telorithan the sorcerer is pretty well developed. He is evil, or perhaps simply amoral, though his goal isn't all that unique among the many fantasies I've read over the years. He wants the power of a god and doesn't care who he hurts to get it. Telorithan's love interest, Sirra, is powerful in her own right, but overconfident in her influence over Telorithan. On the other hand, I didn't like the fickle nature of Telorithan's mentor and former teacher, Yiranor. He seemed to flip too quickly and completely between fear, admiration, and support of his former student. Just didn't quite ring true.
The story features various themes of acceptance, which I thought were woven into the story well. Even though Kaiya's and River's people view them with mistrust due to their unnatural powers, there are still those who accept them for who they are, and even a few who become more accepting as the story goes along. I also like the way Kaiya's parents are supportive or her decisions, no matter how far they've taken her from the norm.
Those who like a comfortably familiar escape into fantasy might like that the story followed a rather standard fantasy formula, particularly with the character and creature archetypes, though for me it made everything seem a little too familiar. However, the final battle between good and evil was rather shorter than typical in this one. There was also a tendency for the writing to be repetitive, particularly when trying to get certain points across. I would have enjoyed more of a focus on building up the world with some robust description or imagery to spark the reader's imagination and really bring this new world to life.
Overall, I found this to be a good story and a quick read, though the writing tends to be repetitive. I enjoyed the female characters the best, because they tended to be strong and confident. As for my recommendations, those who want an escape from the day to day and who enjoy exploring new fantasy realms might find this story to their liking, though I think that those who are looking for an epic might find this a bit light for their taste. It would be a good book for a casual (or perhaps newbie) fantasy reader.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest, non-reciprocal review.
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