Warden of Greyrock by KV Johansen

Warden of Greyrock book cover
Rating 7.5/10
A quick read with plenty of drama and nice touches.

This is the third book in the Warlocks of Talverdin series, carrying on from Nightwalker and Treason in Eswy, and the story follows Maurey, a half human, half Nightwalker Warden of Greyrock. Greyrock is a stronghold on the island of Eswiland where Nightwalkers, people who can travel in the shadow world, retreated to save themselves from the persecution of humans who see them and their magic as evil.

The story centres around Maurey and his liegeman Korby as they seek to unearth information about the cult of the Yehillon, a murderous sect who seek to destroy the Nightwalkers. Kidnapping Annot, Maurey's beloved, they hold her hostage to force Maurey to choose between riding out to rescue her, and therefore leaving the passage to their lands open for the Yehillon to invade, or protecting the boarder.

The setting used is familiar to fantasy fans, with lords, castles, thundering about on horseback and magic powers running in families, but there's plenty here to keep it interesting. The idea of travelling in a kind of half-world I found really interesting and premonitions are used well to outline the growing threat. It is quite a short book as well, around 230 pages, which I found surprising for this kind of story as I am used to fantasy authors tending towards the epic. The first three of these books for example would probably fit into one George RR Martin novel with room to spare. And this is good; it gets to the action quickly yet KV Johansen still manages to create the personalities of her main characters and the world they are in. Maybe a bit of fleshing out in some areas would have been of benefit in order to give you an even stronger sense of the world being created, for example it is rare that anybody eats or drinks anything, the main castle or other buildings could do with more detail, and preparations or tactics for battles or rescue missions are barely mentioned so it can sometimes feel rushed and confusing to work out who is who and what they are supposed to be doing.

I have only read this one out of the three, so reading the first two beforehand would obviously give you a better idea of family connections and the general situation, and I think not reading the other two first hindered the beginning because there are a lot of names and places, some of which I am still not sure how they connect, but a few chapters in this swept me up into a very enjoyable story. It does have the feel of a young adult book with its briefness but this should not stop adult fantasy readers from enjoying this as well, and I actually found it refreshing not to have to wade through 700+ pages for once, though that does have its place. It is well written, and manages to stay clear of clichés.

However, there are two niggles. One is the cover, it is terrible, like somebody had a half-arsed attempt with photoshop and then gave up. It is off-putting, and even though people can say 'Don't judge a book by its cover' I am definitely going to judge whoever put that thing together because I think it gives the book a trashy appearance that it does not deserve. Second is a little note inserted at the beginning of some of the chapters saying that the following is an account of an event or a piece of history, as written by so and so. Completely unnecessary as the chapter that then follows these notes is not in the style of somebody writing their memories or recording an event, it is written like the rest of the story. It comes across as a bit of a ponderous touch, trying to give the feel of a long and lore-filled history, which personally I do not think suits the snappier style of the rest of the book.

In conclusion, a quick read with plenty of drama and nice touches, which makes this unique enough to make me recommend the series for some light reading, but unfortunately its briefness counts against it when it comes to re-reading books as the world was not painted widely enough for it to stand up against other more heavyweight fantasy series.

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