The Snowmelt River by Frank P Ryan

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Rating 8.5/10
Ryan is inventive, the races he peoples his strange world with are not the run of the mill.

This book tells the story of 4 orphans, Alan, Kate, Mark and Mo, who find each other in the Irish town of Clonmel, but it seems that their coming together may not have been accidental. It is suggested by Alan’s grandfather that the reason they all became orphaned may well have been at the behest of some power with the sole purpose of bringing them altogether at this time and place, what this purpose might be however and the truth of why their parents died is to be found in another world! With the aid of Alan’s grandfather, the four of them find the means of travelling from earth to the land of Tir, and all they have to protect themselves with is an ogham inscribed spear which Alan’s grandfather made and a couple of mobile phones.

I know this sounds all a bit too far-fetched even in a modern fantasy, and the author echoes our incredulity in his characters (especially the always cynical Mark-who has good cause to be so about his life), however, it is worth suspending your disbelief.

The land of Tir is a world being conquered by a dark brooding ruler who uses barbarians as his fighting force and a race of demonic, monastic type men who spread the fear of him far and wide. However, there are those who would resist but perhaps need a little push in the right direction. Opportunity arises when our 4 young earth born heroes arrive not knowing where they are or what they are really supposed to be doing there.

This is the first book in an epic fantasy. Ryan is inventive, the races he peoples his strange world with are not the run of the mill elves and orcs and the magic is more of a spiritual nature than the magic of other fantasy novels I’ve read, in this I found him reminiscent of His Dark Materials trilogy.

The enemy is a faceless presence, alien to the land of Tir, his forces are savage and vicious for the sake of it. Considering that our protagonists are children; such savagery is surprisingly brutal as some of them experience it first hand or are witness to it. The author on his website mentions Tolkien, Pullman, C.S. Lewis and Gaiman when he speaks about fantasy, here he has drawn elements that are reminiscent of all these authors and has produced a book that takes us on an fast-paced, action-packed and truly fantastical journey along the Snowmelt River. I would be willing to suspend my disbelief longer to continue the journey as there is more of this tale to be told. I have given this book 8.5 out 10.

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