Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review - Rider (Spirals of Destiny, Book 1) by Jim Bernheimer (4/5 stars)

This is the first book in Bernheimer's new series Spirals of Destiny.  Previously he has written Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman and a collection of short stories called Horror, Humor, and Heroes.  I really enjoyed both of these books and looked forward to reading this one.  I got a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  I am excited to say I really enjoyed this book; it is a creative take on unicorns and female warriors.  Write now the Spirals of Destiny series is planned to be 3-5 books in length.

Majherri is a unicorn who has survived the death of his rider, this never happens at least not until it happened with Majherri.  He is lost and unsure what his survival means and is an outcast in the herd.  Kayleigh Reese is an outcast in her community; her mother is an artist and her father is unknown and they lead a somewhat nomadic life living in each town a couple years before moving on.  When Kayleigh and Majherri meet they form a bond of unicorn and Battle Maiden.  The only problem is Kayleigh is sixteen, three years older than Battle Maidens are normally taken in.  As a result both Kayleigh and Majherri are as much outcasts at the Battle Maiden Academy as they were before they bonded.  As they struggle through training unrest is growing in the west.  The things happening in the west are bigger than anyone realizes and Kayleigh and Majherri will be sucked into the center of the problems.

This was a very good book.  The viewpoint switches between that of Majherri and KayleighBernheimer was dead on in how he wrote the scenes from Majherri's point of view.  Kayleigh is a character you can sympathize with and she is easy to relate too.  The style that each characters tells their portion of the story from is very well defined and easy to read.  The plot moves along at a good pace.  The majority of this book deals with Kayleigh and Majherri journeying to the keep and with them undergoing Battle Maiden training.  Towards the end of the book things get more urgent and the world is broadened quite a bit.  This book is appropriate for a young adult or adult crowd, I think either would enjoy it.

Bernheimer has done a great job with characterization in this book and an even better job in writing great action scenes.  There is a touch of humor throughout so that things don't get too serious.  His writing style is easy to read and follow.  I enjoyed the fact that the unicorns had their own sub culture outside of the humans they bond with.  The book was nicely balanced in dealing both with the unicorn culture and the human culture.  I am always impressed with how much story Bernheimer can get in a novel.  The bond between Kayleigh and Majherri is reminiscent of the bond between the Companion horses and Heralds in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar world.  Outside of the bond similarity there isn't much else that is similar; magic is dealt with in a very different way (that I found intriguing), the unicorns can only communicated in images and emotions with their riders, and the unicorns have a society that is all their own.

There were a couple small things that I would have changed.  I really would have liked Majherri and Kayleigh to get through the training part of the book faster and get involved in the bigger threat to the world sooner.  I was also a little disappointed that at the end of the book you have more questions than answers.  But, this is the first book in a series so I guess I will just have to eagerly await the next book to see what happens.  That being said the ending did hold a lot of interesting twists and turns which really kept things interesting.

Overall this was an excellent start to a great new young adult fantasy series.  I think both adults and young adults will enjoy this series.  It has a creative take on unicorn-human interaction, a nifty magic system, and some great action scenes.  There is just a tad of romance as well.  This book sets things up wonderfully and I am hoping for some excellent adventures for Kayleigh and Majherri in the next book.

To read an interview I did with Jim go HERE.

This book goes towards the following challenges:
- The Debut Author Challenge
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- 1st in a Series Reading Challenge

Rider: Spirals of Destiny: Book 1 

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