When birthed into the world as the son of the great Mendac LeAnce, miraculous feats are expected. Mendac was the Fifth of Five, making him the final hero in the Of Five—a five-part series of fairy tales that stretches over 1,500 years.
Bryson, unfortunately, was given the impossible task of following in his dead father's footsteps. And after sixteen years of mediocrity, the only time people notice him is to ridicule his existence. The world has given up on Mendac's son.
But there are two people on Bryson's side: a stone-faced, lifelong best friend who's never expressed an emotion in her life, and a secret-riddled man who has taken care of Bryson since his father's death. They're his rocks. He has learned to appreciate and lean on their friendship, regardless of their more mysterious side … even if those mysteries put Bryson's life in jeopardy.
Things are looking up for the young LeAnce as the new school year at Phesaw begins. He receives a letter informing him of his induction into the recreation of the Jestivan, an elite group of students that had only existed once in the school's history. Its formation presents the opportunity of new friends for Bryson. But when ten highly talented students come together, there is bound to be conflict.
Warring personalities and competitive attitudes are minor hurdles, however; considering the fact that warring kingdoms are more pressing. A 1,500-year war boils over as a traitor turns his back on his realm, threats of a dangerous king rising from the ashes begin to surface, one of the Jestivan goes missing, and someone close to Bryson is hiding something with more regard for the thing being protected than Bryson’s life.
The Jestivan must develop camaraderie, and do it fast. Otherwise, they’re going to have to force it. And that can end in devastation.
A team of young adults from the Five Kingdoms of the Light Realm must unite and train to face a great danger.
The world of Kuki Sphaira is made up of ten kingdoms, five light and five dark. Bryson LeAnce, of the Light Realm’s Intel Kingdom, is the son of a great hero, but has yet to master the talents of his Kingdom – mind and electricity. Nonetheless, he has been chosen to be part of an elite group, the Jestivan, made up of two members from each of the five Light Realm kingdoms. The Jestivan have been formed after many years of inactivity, to protect the Light Realm from a dangerous threat emerging from the Dark Realm. But when one team member’s powers get out of hand, another is kidnapped, and two Light Realms teeter on the brink of war with each other, things begin to get out of hand. Can the Jestivan find their gifts, rescue their friends, and avert the threats to their world?
THE JESTIVAN is an intriguing novel set in a thoughtfully-designed context. The kingdoms and their people are presented with the color and attention to detail so essential for good world-building. The author’s creativity shines when it comes to character development – the book is full of memorable personalities, including a girl who depends on her telepathic feline hat MeowMeow for her emotional expression, a foster-father figure with mysterious secrets, and a Prince who wants to bring his dead father back to life. However, while much does get revealed as the story goes on, there’s a lot that remains unexplained about the origins and nature of Kuki Sphaira and its history – hopefully the next book will add a bit of useful background to give the story more context. The writing is a bit awkward in places, too: “My daughter will not portray flirtatious mannerisms with another woman,” for example – but not enough to seriously disturb the flow of the story.
THE JESTIVAN is an intriguing beginning to a new series, with a fascinating set of worlds, characters, and plotlines to explore.
Farris’ debut is an epic tale of strange powers and political maneuvering set amid the backdrop of 10 fractious kingdoms, each with its own agenda and defining traits.
Sixteen-year-old Bryson is scarred both physically and emotionally. A student at the elite Light Realm–affiliated school Phesaw, Bryson struggles with the memory of his father. This year might finally be his chance to escape his father’s shadow, though: Bryson and his friend Olivia will join the Jesitvan, a legendary group of heroes. The Jestivan are called only in times of great danger, however, and as much as Bryson is enjoying the new experience of having friends and a team, the Jestivan were called for a reason. Dark forces are moving, using subterfuge and deceit, to pit the Light-aligned Kingdoms against one another. Complicating matters further is Lita Lilu, fellow Jestivan, princess, and just maybe the girl of Bryson’s dreams. Lives—and kingdoms—are at stake, and to save them, Bryson and his new friends will have to overcome not just powerful enemies, but their own flaws and weaknesses. The narrative, like its protagonists, is full of fun strengths and a few flaws it needs to overcome. The action scenes are snappy and well-written, and the characters are as colorful as their hair—violet, green, purple, etc. The anime influence is very strong. While that definitely contributes to the fun, it also has a few drawbacks. The bombastic speaking style can sound stilted, and exposition often unfolds via robotic monologues. However, the cast is a hoot, successfully riding the line between amusingly over-the-top and outright unbelievable (see Meow Meow the sentient hat that looks like a kitten).
A fun, energetic fantasy sure to appeal to anime aficionados.