Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reader's Review: "The Starlight Proverbs (Tales of the Late Remian Empire #1)" by Darren E. Barber

Synopsis from Amazon:
"Cory came to where the moon and starlight shone upon the floor. Then he sat down upon the smooth stones, facing the window so that he would not block the streams of light. He looked up at the broken window, and he took a deep breath of the cool night air that poured down into the corridor. Then he placed the book on the floor in front of him, setting it within one of the larger patches of light. But when he did this, Cory saw something that caught his breath away.

"The book was still closed, and yet even now Cory could see a ghostly shimmer of silvery-blue light. It sparkled down the edges of all the pages, glinting as though the pages were made of ice that could burn, or live coals that could freeze.

He arrived at the manor with something tucked within his crib, a book with proverbs that only appear in the glint of starlight. That is all that Cory knows about his infancy before the false-uncle had him raised for a life of servitude at the workhouse. His attempt to escape turns into a dangerous descent into a labyrinthine lair, where a chillingly beautiful, self-adoring, and emotionally unhinged creature becomes his guide. Her cryptic songs hint at the journey that awaits him, where he must use the book of ancient proverbs to confront the sinister Lord Veront, help an enchanting Orchardess, and fight the forces of Goulmania to restore the rightful heir to the throne of the Remian Empire.

My Review:

I have wanted to read this book for a very long time, probably since summer, but maybe before that. The author, Darren Barber, was the brother of a very good friend of mine, who I had met briefly a few years before I even knew that he was the author of a fantasy novel! The trouble was, I had so many library books to get through, I wanted to save this book that we owned for a time when I didn't have any checkout deadlines to meet. Hence the month of December worked perfectly. 

First there was the cover. I could discern what looked like a mermaid—a particular weakness of mine. I love fantasy--but I love fantasy with mermaids even more. Promises of a tale of a hidden inheritance and an epic adventure involving a "child of destiny" thrilled me long before I cracked the cover.

So once I had established that the cover was good and the blurb sufficient, it was time to give the first chapter a try.
Within the pages of "The Starlight Proverbs" I found gorgeous imagery, poetic dialogue, and magnificent characters. The same carried all the way through the entire adventure: an oppressive villain who steals rich heirs for unscrupulous next-of-kin and forces them to labor in his workhouse till they die; a "haunted wood" purported to be the lair of a dragon that is really just a very deep cavern with a very deranged inhabitant. Oh, and it's not a mermaid; it's an emotionally unhinged eel-maid with a grudge against a dryad-like "orchardress" who had been fastened to a ship as a figurehead. Still quite an entertaining character!

Cory, the main character, is more the "hero" worth rooting for, neither consumed with his own importance, nor is he the only character capable of heroic deeds. (SPOILER ALERT: despite what you might think--and yes, I assumed this as well--Cory is not the "rightful heir"... it's someone else... but he helps them, anyhow!)
Barber lets various other characters shine in their own ways, and handles an ensemble cast with the ease and grace of a master. The challenges faced by the characters are not ones easily overcome by just one person--as so many authors are wont to do--but requires the unification and cooperation of many others to accomplish the deed. It had me holding my breath there at the very end, and my imagination was keenly enthralled from the first page to the last!

This book had me grinning the whole way through, and I would love to revisit this "world" again and again! The story is not over, and there is still more of the lush world to discover, more characters to meet. This is a very promising beginning to a great fantasy series!

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