4 Oct 2016

#Review: THE EMPYREAN KEY by J.L. Tomlinson


Author: J.L. Tomlinson
Series: Ardentia #1
Source: eBook via Author
Publisher: Side Eye Publishing
Publication Date: November 24, 2014
Rating: 2/5 stars

The first book in a new epic fantasy series...

Jahna Mornglow is a thief, a liar and an all-around misfit, a half-breed of the loathed and ostracized Narcean race, born with the abilities of prophecy and telepathy.

The humdrum days in her beachside home are eased by nights in the outer villages, scamming unsuspecting fishermen out of their hard earned coin. It is the most fun and profit Jahna and her friends, Lilac, a brawling barmaid and Silko, a bullied bookworm, can expect from their lower class lives. But not all is what it seems.Their world is in danger and when Jahna's power starts to awaken, she finds herself the banished heir of a kingdom close to ruin.

The land of Ardentia is vast and magical, carved by the Celestial gods and ruled by their mortal descendants. With a once great king now mysteriously ill, a hundred years war raging in the east and whispers of the return of an ancient evil, Ardentia's fate now rests on the shoulders of a group of young outcasts.

The ghosts of Jahna's past will call upon her, revealing hidden enemies, precious secrets and a fragmented artifact that will breath new life into the myths of old.

Can Jahna keep safe a world that has shunned and discarded her?

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was an interesting start to this series and while I am definitely going to continue on with the next book, I still had some issues with THE EMPYREAN KEY. Ones that I think may make it less enjoyable to someone who isn't super into high fantasy. And even though I finished this book relatively quickly, I still found myself able to take breaks and walk away from it without any issue.

The Good:
I thought the pacing of Jahna's story was really good. It hit all the right marks while also subverting some of the typical tropes. I really like the main story overall and thought that it was well plotted. I think the story itself has a lot of potential and will be really interesting. I love good vs evil plots and I am pretty sure this is going to fulfill that for me in a really good way.

Jahna was a big part in my enjoyment of this novel. I liked Jahna and that she wanted to learn more about her magic and was stubborn in that regard. I also liked that Jahna was willing to do whatever it took in order to fulfill her destiny. I really enjoyed that her friends already saw her as a leader so it was natural to them that she should rule. I think that she had the most growth and personal development in this novel and I think she is a really strong lead.

The Not So Good:
I thought switching to the other cast of characters, the ones with (dying) King Myole at the Castle, including Jahna's "evil counterpart" (more on this later) was a bad move at the time we were given it. It took us out of the story of Jahna and her quest and told us information that was kind of useless to us at the time. I think that section of story would have either been better suited as a short epilogue (like we were given, which was GREAT! It gave us the needed information to tie some pieces together without having a huge chunk of our time spent in the Castle) or to start the next story! I just felt like it was a bit of cut and paste in a way -- almost as though the author wasn't quite sure where it should go, so it went there.

The worldbuilding was a bit minimal but I think we got the important bits to keep us in the story and up to date. There was a bit of infodumping at the beginning about the legends and stories that are treated as religion but they were really interesting so I didn't mind. I would have liked a bit more information about the magic and the key itself instead of the random bits we got throughout. I feel like I'm still not 100% sure why the key is so important -- and if it is so important why others aren't looking for it.

I thought the characters were kind of flat at some points. They all felt like carbon cuts of stereotypes that you see in fantasy novels. And while this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just wasn't exactly what I wanted in this one. I think seeing Lilac at the end having the nightmare PTSD symptom was the most character development in this novel tbh. And sure, we were just starting to get to know some of the characters, but the descriptions of others were just downright laughable.

For example, Mydra is Jahna's half sister, who is supposedly going to be evil and destroy the world, and we know this because she likes pretty dresses and acts like a brat to her servants. And the Queen was one bad evil stereotype after another until the end. Like I got the impression from reading the section with her included that she didn't like the King at all, but that wasn't the case. I just feel like there wasn't any development of the characters at all.

And finally some of the situations the characters put themselves into and subsequently got themselves out of were, well, stupid. Instead of using finding the next stone to develop the characters, it was made to seem like an unimportant part of the plot because of how ridiculous the scenario was. I thought that would have been a great time for Lilac to really shine and show some character but instead we got a weird meat eating scene that will probably occur in my dreams tonight and haunt me.

I would wait to see what the next book is like and what the reviews coming out of it say before starting this one. I think this one will appeal to fans of high fantasy but there are some missing pieces to make it the next great high fantasy read that you should pick up. I do think I will continue the story, however, because I like to know how things play out.

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