It's no secret, that Benedict Patrick had become one of my favorite authors with his Yarnsworld series. I was beyond excited when I got my hands on an early copy of From the Shadows Of The Owl Queen's Court and had pretty high expectations. Not that I needed to worry. Benedict Patrick is an exceptional story-teller and has created one of the most interesting worlds I 've come across in fantasy.
From the Shadows Of The Owl Queen's Court brings us back to the Magpie King's forest. Where the very first Yarnsworld book, They Mostly Come Out At Night takes place which will please many readers. As usual, this is a stand-alone novel, and as such it doesn't require knowledge of any of the previous books. However, reading They Mostly... will give added depth to the story here.
This time around we follow the events through two character's eyes: Nascha and Bradan. Nascha spends her days in the Owl Queen's Court as a slave, hiding her true hair color, and occasionally keeping the Owl Princess' company. (Un)fortunately Nascha is the only one whom the 15 years old, spoiled brat can stand. Nascha's only wish is to be free and get as far away as she can. But as it's often the case, you have to be careful what you wish for, because the price might not be worth paying. Soon Nascha finds herself in the dreaded forest of the Magpie King, the one every Owl kid learns to fear. Not without reason. Giant birds with skull heads, beavers the size of bears and the Spirit knows what else are roaming the forest, looking for prey. Nascha arrives at a time when things are changing in the forest. The Magpie King slowly loses the hearts of the people, while the Lady gains power. And Nascha finds herself in the middle of this conflict, as well as neck-deep in trouble chased by two parties she managed to get away from: the Owl guardsmen led by Lord Bidzell who wants to finish what he started back in the Owl Queen's Court, and Vippon from the Vulpe tribe, who happens to be a Gentleman Fox. One who is chosen by the Fox Spirit. His legend reminded me of the tale about Bluebeard, which was based on a french nobleman called Gilles de Rais.
The only one who seems to be standing on her side in the whole damn forest is Bradan, whose dream is to be a hero, to be chosen by the Magpie Spirit so he could save the forest and give peace to its people. Instead, he always finds himself stirring up emotions and hatred and do more damage than good. The guy has a golden heart but poor luck. He agrees to help Nascha get out of the forest and prove himself along the way to be worthy of being gifted by the Magpie Spirit. Little he knows what he asks for and when he finally learns it, he has to face the consequences of his choices. As well as Nascha.
From The Shadows Of The Owl Queen's Court has a mix of characters from 4 different set of legends, and myths featuring the Magpie King, the Lady, the Gentleman Fox and the Owl Queen. It is an interesting mix. Every one of them has their own agenda, and when these powers clash that leaves its mark on the forest. This book feels a bit like you are reading a D&D campaign, where the DM throws random obstacles before the characters. Sometimes it felt like Nascha and Bradan just went with the flow, running from one place to the next. While Lord Bidzell, his men, Vippon, the Magpie King or the Lady popped up to wreak some havoc and send them to another direction. Sometimes it felt like the plot isn't going anywhere. It was one long action scene, and I can't decide if that's a bad or a good thing. Probably some slowing down, time to really get lost in the atmosphere would have been beneficial. I mean, what I really love about Benedict Patrick's books is that he can make me believe I am in a magical land, surrounded by myths and legends walking among the people. Four different kinds of powers and legendary characters were a bit too much. We learn something about every one of them, but we don't get to know them as much as we probably should. Patrick's previous books told one whole story and pretty well at that, whereas here we get glimpses into more stories. Not that I didn't enjoy all of them, it just left me with the feeling that it wasn't complete. Vippon himself should deserve to get his own main story to answer every question you'll come up with while reading. The details are all in here, and man they do tell a devastating story. On the other hand, we finally learn a bit about where the power actually comes from and the relationship between the Magpie King and the Owlfolks, which was a nice touch and put things into perspective.
This story definitely has Patrick's style of storytelling, some bizarre creatures, intriguing folk tales shedding some light on the events and giving depth to the story and some well-built, interesting characters. Not talking about scenes I'm never going to forget. Or look at fruits the same way ever again for that matter. And still, there is something amiss. I liked Bradan, he tried to be the best he could be but also knew his limitations. Even so, he was kind of drowned by all these other characters with power and strong personality. Nascha... I couldn't care about her. She is forced to make some choices, and although she stands up for herself, she just failed to get me involved emotionally. And while her resentment and rage are understandable, she was the one who in the end made her choices, no need blaming others for it.
Despite my somewhat mixed feelings about the writing and the story, From The Shadows Of The Owl Queen kept me awake much longer than I would have liked. The last chapter was a real emotional roller-coaster ride and I'm sure as hell couldn't tell what's going to happen. It pulled some really well-earned punches, leaving me speechless. It wrapped the story neatly but also left open the possibility of some more to come. I for one am interested, how the changes in the forest play out in the long run.
From The Shadows Of The Owl Queen's Court is a very dark tale about chasing your dreams, about nature having its own way in the end. Do you love the original Grimm tales? How about some action and monsters? Read Benedict Patrick's other books or just looking for something original? Then you found the perfect book, my friend!
Written by Timy at https://starlitbook.com/
Timy Takacs, 8/10
Benedict Patrick gives us another wonderful Yarnsworld novel in From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court. If you haven’t read any of Patrick’s Yarnsworld novels yet, you’re really in for a treat. Each of them is an engaging, entertaining read. Owl Queen’s Court is my current favourite, and well worth your time.
Patrick excels at convincing, complex, and intricate worldbuilding. He gives us a wonderfully crafted world, but perhaps even more than the worldbuilding itself is the way that Patrick does ambiance. Not only do you feel like this story is a tale that could be shared around a camp fire, but the story itself is dark and gripping. You feel as if you are walking in the Magpie King’s Woods while you read. The feeling of darkness, of oppression, is almost palpable. The prose is evocative and I particularly enjoyed learning more about the Great Spirits in the world. It’s fabulously done and Patrick deserves plenty of praise for what he has achieved in writing ambiance. Because of the folktale-like nature of his stories, I’ve sometimes criticized the characters in Yarnsworld novels as falling a little flat for me. That isn’t the case at all in Owl Queen’s Court. Both Bradan and Nascha are wonderful characters that feel relatable and that you care about deeply. Their individual journeys in this book are real and aching. You want them to succeed so much, and much of the tension in the story comes from wondering if they will or - perhaps even more so - how they will. At its core, this is really a personal story focused on these two characters and the setting, while wonderfully evocative, does take a bit of a back seat to the personal journeys of these characters. I loved it.
There isn’t a lot to dislike in this novel. Patrick has crafted a wonderful world and characters you connect with. There were a couple moments when I felt like perhaps the plot became a little meandering. These sections didn’t last long, however, but they were there. I also felt like a couple of the decisions characters make during the endgame, while foreshadowed well, didn’t always make sense for them given what we had come to know about them. Neither of these did too much to detract from my enjoyment, but they were minor issues.
From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court is a wonderfully evocative novel with stunning ambiance and engaging characters all set in Patrick’s much-loved Yarnsworld. Each novel stands on its own, so whether you have enjoyed a Yarnsworld novel yet or not, this would be a wonderful read to pick up. I heartily recommend this one and look forward to seeing what Patrick gives us next.
Calvin Park, 8.3/10
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