Five Stars – Available at this link on Amazon.com
This was my first true, deep dive into the world created by M.A. Ray and I didn’t want to leave just yet. I’d read one of her shorts involving the wonderful knight by the name of Vandis Vail, but in this story I got to not only get to know Vandis better, but I also met Dingus. Yes, Dingus. I love the name, Dingus.
This story starts out with a prologue in the grand way prologues go. Very vivid detail and cinematic prose that brings the image of a ritual gone horribly wrong into the mind’s eye. After that, though, we see the impact of that ritual. A magical world stripped of its magic, with only vestiges of it remaining. The story involved a fantasy world but it had a strong base in reality, really. Reality for a made up world is a difficult thing to pull off but there you have it. I adored Dingus. He was a plucky character, very easily likable, honest, yet not without his foibles and things that make you just want to smack yourself in the head and go, “oh, Dingus!”
As for the writing, there were no places where I found myself dragged out of the narrative, but there were some instances where I had to go back and re-read a sentence once or twice to figure out what was being said. There were a few places of telling as opposed to showing, but in a story like this, sometimes that’s necessary. Or, a tidbit given by telling was or is going to be something that’s important down the road or in the moment. Such as us being told that Vandis had a sweet tooth, but couldn’t eat candies like he used to. Well, that told us that his sharing of a caramel later on was a rather important thing for him to do.
The book tackles difficult issues such as racism with aplomb and wonderful contrasting flowing ideas. Kessa’s predicament given her tender, tender age broke my heart and Dingus’ honor and Vandis’ generosity (well, the Lady’s generosity) with her made me love him even more.
Plot wise, I’m sure that what happened in this book sets up for much more down the road, but I did find the ending a little abrupt. I wanted more and that’s a good thing, especially after the culmination of one subplot involving a young boy and burgeoning magic, and the other with Dingus himself and his own heretofore “hidden” talent.
The action scenes at the end were well rendered and painted vivid pictures in my mind. The wander/quest plot did wander a bit, but I understood why and it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story at all. The plot was dark yet light hearted if that makes any sense.
Definitely not for little kids, though. I never criticize a book for swearing, ever, but as a review I gotta say it’s in there. It’s in there but it leant to the truthfulness of the story, the backwater kid and the cranky knight, of course they’re going to swear. 🙂 Some hints of sexual situations and violence, but nothing more violent than what’s seen in much YA fiction these days anyway.
I think Vandis and Dingus are going to stick with me for a long while. Also, after I finished reading Hard Luck I immediately and without question picked up the sequel. As a friend of mine says, she votes with her wallet when it comes to things she reads, and I do as well. My vote’s been cast.