The Gauntlet Thrown
by Cheryl Dyson and Xina Marie Uhl
Charting the journey of two enemies-turned-friends, this book starts off with a fast pace and keeps it there.
Constantly entertaining and gripping with a cast of well rounded and believable characters.
What sets this book apart from the many fantasy books I've read over the years is the natural-ness and believability of the characters. While many typical fantasy characters find themselves "swept along", you get the sense that the authors have given great thought to the choices each character would make rather than slavishly following a plot.
The other standout feature is how exposition is handled. In mist fantasy and sci-fi, this is a cumbersome job as many of the concepts and physics of the new world need explaining. Not here though.
Each new concept is gently introduced as a natural outgrowth of the plot and character interactions. I never felt overwhelmed with new info or had to read back over something once covered.
The protagonists' relationship is very well written and the lynchpin of the book. While they start as national enemies and one actually tries to kill the other by way of introduction, the friendship the strike up is believable and warm.
The moments of mirth and bickering are ones that other authors might have edited out or missed entirely, as they don't move the plot. However, the authors take some tome out from the breakneck speed of the story to allow the characters to have some downtime in which to explore their relationship dynamics.
It works fantastically. By the end, I cared about the characters and what happened to them.
The only criticism I would level at it is that the entire cast is made up of pretty people, a common trait of self-published novels for some reason.
My Pet Subject:
The combat is good; well paced and most of the typical cliches (heavy swords, instantly lethal arrows etc) are omitted. Many brownie points.
The combination of physical and mental combat is particularly interesting and well communicated
The book is not quite a stand-alone work, and a series of sequels is probably in progress (and eagerly awaited). However, like any 1st novel in a series should, it does stand on it's own quite well.
This is a cracking read and I would pay good money to have it in hardcopy.
Available on itunes, smashwords and via the authors website