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Ryan Hoyt
Gemma Calvertson and the Forest of Despair
Ryan Hoyt, author

A heroine's first adventure. A kingdom's last hope.


Gemma spends her days studying a war her father fought in before her birth, but she realizes that not everything is what it seems. When she sets off to interview an aging hero, she learns about an emerging threat to the kingdom prophesied by the forbidden factions of magic and religion.


Since she can't go to the officials without incriminating her new friend Richard, they must set off together on a journey through an uncanny forest to confirm and neutralize the threat. Can they forge new alliances and defeat the forces of evil without the use of magic or the might of a military?


If they fail, everyone they love will perish.


The Forest of Despair is the first book of the Aepistelle Chronicles, a new series of epic fantasy adventures following an emerging heroine and her team of sidekicks, including a witch with an army of children, a young homeless seer, a giant ogre, a boisterous stage performer, and an all-female crew of pirates.

Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 7.75 out of 10


Plot: An exciting fantasy story that aims to kick off an epic series. The action builds nicely, with a complete plot arc that doesn’t leave the reader hanging despite the promise of more adventures to come.

Prose: The book features a very strong narrative voice, setting it apart from many genre contemporaries. The novel has a timeless storybook feel, with convincing worldbuilding and characters who fully inhabit that world.

Originality: The characters and world fit squarely in the genre, but the novel’s voice is effective in establishing a unique and original tale.

Character/Execution: The characters are well-rendered with individual motivations driving them. Care is taken to flesh them out and this pays off to the novel’s benefit. Readers will want to join these heroes on their next adventure. 

Date Submitted: May 07, 2022