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Mark Howard
Godfrey's Crusade
Mark Howard, author
"Godfrey's Crusade" is Mark Howard's debut fantasy novel. It details Godfrey de Bastogne's coming of age in a harsh world filled with violence and intrigue. In the story, our young protagonist must not only fight monsters with sword and shield, but he must also learn how to hold true to his ideals while his rivals appear to only act in self-interest.
​​Howard’s polished debut YA fantasy follows Godfrey de Bastogne, son of a duke, as he transitions from squire to knight. After hearing a crusade-pitch in a town square, Godfrey quickly pledges to fight “the war of the gods”––and aid his mother’s homeland, Azgald, against a rising tyrant. During the crusade, he meets Madeline, the daughter of another volunteer commander, who is introduced as a “damsel” but is secretly a sorceress. Godfrey has a vision that prophesies that their “crusade” cannot end until they defeat a dragon, but there’s a catch: dragons don’t exist anymore. Meanwhile, Alvir of Clan Black Dragon, the rising tyrant, and his wife, Nera, the Great Witch of the North, vow to take over Azgald. Will the crusade successfully thwart the mysterious dragon of Godfrey’s prophecy?

While familiar in its plotting, this action-packed adventure and coming-of-age story offers elements of romance and its fair share of supernatural elements and creatures. Howard’s plot is tightly wound and layered, with no details that aren’t essential to the novel’s progression. Each trial Godfrey undergoes builds on the last, culminating in an entertaining finale. The majority of Howard’s protagonists prove well developed and form believable relationships. Rather than a damsel in distress, Madeline is a strong young sorceress at risk of marrying a man she does not love because of a deal her father made, while Godfrey is more than the son of a duke—he reveals himself to be a trustworthy and loyal young man who wants to honor his mother and father.

Howard does a great job world building and balancing the story’s fantastical and naturalistic elements. The villains could be more developed to make the material richer and more resonant, and because the mode here is the hero’s journey, prophetic quest division, the plot at times will be predictable for readers steeped in the genre. Still, Howard has crafted an engaging, well-written tale that will please young devotees of classic high fantasy.

Takeaway: This fast-moving classic fantasy brings appealing life to a familiar tapestry.

Great for fans of: Tamora Pierce’s Squire, Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B