A Unique And Outstanding New Voice In Fantasy!!!
(Warning: Another super long review by me!)
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest Review.
It's been a while since I've read a standard fantasy book. Some of the first books I ever read were the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman. I didn't read for several years after that until I discovered the wonderful Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Leguin at my highschool's library. It was that trilogy that really kindled my love for reading. Much like the beautiful covers of the Earthsea books which always reminded me of tiles for some reason the cover of Ren of Atikala drew me in and made me want to know what the book was about and the premise of it was so extremely unique. There are plenty of your standard human heroes, elves and even a dwarf or two but a kobold? I'd never read about one and not only was a Kobold the main character but also the hero of the book and on top of that Ren is a female kobold. I just had to know more so I eagerly dug into Ren of Atikala and discovered that there was nothing "standard" about this fantasy book. It was exceptional! Ren's world is a big scary place and her travels instantly took me back to my childhood, of playing Dungeons and Dragons, reading Dragonlance, learning about Drizzit for the first time. It brought back all of those memories and added to them. Ren might be a little Kobold by human standards but there's nothing little about her, her tale or her destiny.
The book starts out by introducing us to Ren's world deep inside her cavern home with her community. Kobolds are very different from the other races yet so eerily similar. They love their homes, guard them with their lives and they value their community. In fact the normal Kobold lives each and every second for their community so when tragedy strikes and Ren is forced to leave everything she's ever known behind we begin her journey into not only discovering the big wide world but also who she really is. Ren has always been different and it's not just the color of her scales which are pure gold. She's always had a bit of an independant streak but inside her home she's never really had a chance to grow or even think about what she really wants or who she really is in the great scheme of things.
Home. The word has a special resonance with us all. Great or humble, rich or poor, everyone cherishes their home and if deprived of it loses a pice of themselves.
Ren is not only a little bit differnt but she's also a warrior and a sorcerer.
I disliked being unable to control my mind while I slept, but I knew sorcerers always dreamed. Our dreams reflected the faint sliver of powerful blood in our veins, a body stuffed with too much soul, the excess spilling into the night hours. It was the price we paid for our arts.
As Ren and and her companion Khavi travel through the tunnels leading to the world beyond and to Ssarsdale where their Kobold cousins live they face many obstacles and Ren begins to question many things that she has been taught her whole life. You see Kobolds have much in common with the other races of the world. They are raised in fear and believe that humans, elves and gnomes are all evil and that they are the good guys. In fact there are many passages dealing with this. At one point it shows them talking about how gnomes hearts must be black along with the blood in their veins so what happens when you're thrust out into the world only to discover that which you were led to believe your whole life isn't true? That even through their differences the races all have much in common and maybe, just maybe they are not all evil like Ren once believed. But then what does that make her and her own kind? Evil? Or just different. These are the moral dilemna's Ren must face along with surviving her journey.
We live in a world surrounded by hate, by hungry steel in blood-soaked hands. Humans. Elves. Gnomes. Jealous of our gifts, these wicked races of darkness are your enemies. They hate you as you hate them, seeking only your destruction and the denial of our destiny. Never hesitate to spill their blood, for they would end you in a hearbeat. The righteous can have no mercy for monsters. Say it with me now, children! Shout it to the stones above! Let all who hear our voices tremble in fear! No mercy for monsters! No mercy for monsters! No mercy for monsters!
I could go on and on all day about this book. The writing was superb and it reads like David Adams has been writing fantasy for his whole life. The story along with it's setting was so unique and fascinating. I literally could not put down my kindle. For some reason I was thinking that this was going to be a lighthearted adventure and while there were some funny passages, especially when the kobolds were trying to figure stuff out about other races and the outside world it was a very gritty and realistic story. I forgot that Kobolds are not gnomes. They are not happy go lucky creatures and they live in a big world where they are just the little guys. That is why they breed so fast, they win wars and discourage aggression through sheer numbers but that doesnt' mean they aren't brave. Some of the things Ren and Khavi face would send many humans or elves fleeing for their very lives yet they do it with courage and honor. One thing I really enjoyed about this story was that inbetween the chapters you get to read a journal entry from Ren's future self and catch a glimpse of who Ren will eventually become and her views on the world and the things she went through at the very beginning of her tale. I cannot wait to find out what Ren's destiny is. It's apparent from the book that great things are in store for Ren, that her destiny is larger than her small frame and you get to experience the beginning of her growth as she learns to value those around her and follow her own course. This was simply a great book and deserves to stand amongst those titles I mentioned earlier. It's been days since I've finished reading it and I still can't get Ren out of my head. If you love adventure, fantasy and want something a bit different then give Ren of Atikala a try. This is one journey you do not want to miss and I'm so very thankful for getting a chance to read this and for that the wonderful cover which drew me in and made me want to find out more. Just all around an excellent read! I'm going to leave you with this last little passage, it just feels like the best way to end this.
"you...I sense something about you. I sense you are destined for great things." A sad edge filtered into his tone. "And great pain." "Pain?" "This is the curse of all those who bear great power. Each of us suffer our burdens, and those are stones we carry until we are dead. The greater our strength, the more weight life stacks on our backs."
I would give this one 10 stars if I could but will have to settle for 5 since that is all that is allowed. :)
[NOTE: This was not a part of my original review, I just wanted to add that I eventually bought a book copy for my brother who loves fantasy too. He absolutely loved this series and plans on buying the next one just like I'm going to. I just wish I could get him to leave a review but at least he's told all of his friends about this extraordinary book]