The Vanishing Tomb is the first book in Madison Trupp's Aerwild Adventures series, and it's a promising start at that! To give a quick summary, the book falls under the broad fantasy genre, but it also contains elements found in the thriller, young adult/coming-of-age, and horror genres. It follows the struggles of the inhabitants of Fellriver, a town populated by an anthropomorphized animal cast. I had a blast reading it and would like to take a bit of time to detail a few of its most significant strengths.
In a day and age where the leads (male and female) of young adult stories have become predictable and tired, Tobe Sunshard--The Vanishing Tomb's altruistic, mild-mannered dog protagonist--provides readers with a refreshing perspective. He's an enjoyable character to follow, and one whose motivations I was happy to support. All of the major characters in this book are appealing, nuanced, and intriguing. Hila, Tobe's playful and brash best friend, was undoubtedly my favorite.
The effort put into developing the world of the Aerwild shows. The book's universe has been crafted meticulously, with an interesting history, magic system, and belief system. How the Aerwilds came to exist is especially fascinating. The explanation provided is easy to understand and simultaneously enthralling, and I'm excited to see how the story's lore will be expanded in future installments! I also really appreciated the inclusion of little facts about the world at the start of each chapter.
3. Something for young and mature readers alike
The Vanishing Tomb's main cast might be described best as adolescents. Naturally, readers of a similar age might resonate most closely with the cast, but as an adult reader, I found their struggles just as compelling. The relationships and ethical issues addressed in the story are treated with enough insight for both young and mature readers to appreciate. Action scenes near the climax (which contain some horror) are neither censored nor gratuitous. Instead, I would describe them as chilling without being unnecessarily frightening. Overall, complex topics have been handled with skill, and as a result, the story's appeal can extend to the readership of many.
If I had to suggest one area for improvement, I would say that I wanted a little more "screen time" (page time?) for the antagonist. Their presence is still felt throughout the story, and it's not that they're one-dimensional or acting without cause. Quite the opposite: their motivations are grounded in a theological aspect established early in the story. I just, simply, wanted more! Knowing Trupp intends to release several more installments in the Aerwild series, I get the feeling they will be given a larger role in books to come, and thus I haven't taken anything from my rating. I look forward to following their development as the villain!
Lastly, I purchased the physical version of The Vanishing Tomb. As a book created through Amazon's self-publishing system, it "feels" nice in the hands. Having never ordered a book printed through this system before, I was impressed by the quality!
To conclude, the world of the Aerwild is one I'm excited to return to in future installments, and I would recommend this book to those interested in animals, magic, nature, and simply reading a FUN story which delivers on its premise without being predictable.
Canadian author Madison Trupp dedicates the first entry of her Aerwild Adventures series to CJ and Dana for their patience, alongside Matthew for support and critiques. The story opens with a prologue in the world’s year 316 in the winter, when a dog named Tobe has a mysterious dream of being a fish swimming upriver. Each of the main chapters opens with a tidbit about the novel’s world, such as the river Weywater feeding the Northern Foothills, and the village of Fellriver being a riverside hunting community founded a century before the book’s time.
In the beginning, Tobe seeks his lupine friend Hila Hangmaw, with the two talking about the novel’s chief backstory involving the Great Mage, a stag named Pyr Firebolt, who killed the Titan Snake with the power of the Aer, sort of analogous with the Star Wars franchise’s Force. Tobe’s father Luka Sunshard stopped returning home from missions with Pyr seven years before the narrative’s timeframe, the Great Mage himself dying a week before.
A raccoon named Maho of Gilderill comes with a message from the cougar Shego the Sage for the bear Roark Bravehunter indicating that some of the sick and elderly are missing from the village, and many graves from the cemetery being suddenly empty. Tobe wants to help solve this mystery, facing initial discouragement from his mother Kora Sunshard. The adults gather at the Fire Hall to discuss action to take, while Tobe and Hila visit the graveyard at night, seeing the specter of a hunched bison and seeing a vixen in the flesh named Rishrim Swiftfoot, one of the Great Mage’s apprentices.
Tobe, Hila, and Rishrim ultimately summon a tracking spell to find the lost visitors, crossing the Weywater to find the titular Vanishing Tomb, where they find the diary of a supposed squatter named Kimer, and encounter the necromancer Krolius, serving as the story’s chief antagonist. Overall, aside from some stylistic choices the author made, such as never referring to Rishrim as a vixen despite being vulpine, this is an admirable start to the series, which this reviewer definitely hopes isn’t stillborn.
Come celebrate the official book launch of Aerwild Adventures #1: The Vanishing Tomb with author Madison Trupp! The event is hosted in the Travel Alcove of McNally Robinson in Grant Park Mall and will feature a reading of the first chapter, as well as a discussion and Q&A period about the book and author. The event begins at 7:30 PM on Saturday, November 24th.
This event is open to fans of all ages, and will have copies of The Vanishing Tomb available for purchase as well as some free goodies. Come learn more about the world of the Aerwild with Madison Trupp!