Goblins, wizards and elves are the foundations of fantasy witing - and so have long lost their allure as exceptional draws to the genre. And every fantasy seems to revolve around an epic quest. So what's left, to draw in readers? The force of psychological connection remains a good reason for choosing one fantasy read over another.
As Book One of the 'Grey Riders' series, Whitehorse Peak promises goblins, wizards, elves, and further books in a series. But even ancient prophecy and epic quests would be one-dimensional without the binding force of interpersonal relationships to involve readers - and here's where Whitehorse Peak excels, standing out from the crowd of fantasy adventures by providing a tale replete with friendships and strong connections between protagonists.
Dar Cabot is the force tying all these associations together, but at first he doesn't seem to be much more than a hunter and a goblin fighter. Adept in these skills, Dar has changed thanks to much training: the only problem is, those who have long known him don't see these changes. Part of the problem lies in local history and part lies with the path he's chosen: "Free-lance mercenaries were people who came and went from Forester, larger-than-life figures with exotic tales and more exotic magic. They weren’t hometown boys who’d once been toddlers wandering around in diapers. Most thought "taking the free-lance" was the pastime of idiots: years of training for a chance to get killed at an early age."
Another 'plus' - there's touches of emotional connection throughout the story - even feelings towards one's mortal enemies ("Past encounters, usually in the company of his mentor, let him see death in its finality, but he still felt an emptiness and nausea, even for a creature of Darkness.") - and this approach leads to involvements on a different level than that of a single adventure story, reaching deeper to create a riveting, emotionally powerful story line.
All the trappings of a good fantasy are here (an epic quest, ruins, magic, powerful beings); but all this would be lost were it not for the added emotional impact of enemies and friendships, equally-strong male and female protagonists, and (for those who enjoy military clashes) battle scenes that are vibrant with realistic action: "The Forester soldiery burst forth from the main gate, bristling with spearpoints like some massive, many-legged hedgehog, the citizens right behind them. Nolan rode at their head, shining bright in full armor. The force thundered out into the smoke and fire. A hail of arrows soared from the town walls overhead, arcing out at the unseen enemy."
It's these psychological insights and revelations ("She had a kind, gentle heart and he found, to his surprise, that she detested violence. From the way she handled herself in combat, he would have come to a different conclusion.") that keep readers on their toes and prevent the ennui that can stem from the kinds of dry, predictable characters and outcomes that too often dominate the fantasy genre.
Though there's much (necessary) detail initially provided on setting, history, and protagonists in the first few chapters, Whitehorse Peak sets its story line and then flies with an epic fantasy quest replete with battles, confrontations, and a key dose of psychological insight throughout.
Whitehorse Peak is a work of epic fantasy fiction penned by author P. G. Badzey and forms the first novel of The Grey Riders series. In this opening story, we find ourselves in the Kingdom of Deran and its surroundings, where we meet a scout who is about to undertake a truly epic journey. When young Dar Cabot comes upon a ruined village, so begins his quest for justice, and an alliance with a whole host of fascinating characters, from wizards to warriors, elves and beyond. They will take their fight to the cult of the Ja’al and its many allies, journeying through an incredible magical world to deliver their own unique brand of justice.
Author P. G. Badzey has cemented a solid reputation on the fantasy scene with this first novel in The Grey Riders series, not least for its all-encompassing and well-rounded quality as a novel. There is an excellent balance of worldbuilding and introduction, which is fully lavish and exciting, with atmospheric moments of high, epic fantasy that smack of tradition and the old favorites, but then also more modern inclusions and plenty of witty humor. The characters who form the central band of brothers and sisters are superbly fleshed out, playing on and against stereotypes to create interesting and realistic personalities, each with their own motivations and agenda. This makes for an epic start to an engaging fantasy quest and, overall, Whitehorse Peak sets up a wonderful new adventure expertly. Highly recommended: fantasy fiction at its best.