(Frith Chronicles #1)
By Shami Stovall
Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.
So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.
In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.
"No one could stop me from proving myself to a phoenix. No one..."
But the Island of Ruma was founded on tradition. Only those deemed worthy by Schoolmaster Tyms could participate in the Trial of Worth. This year Tyms had deemed Zaxis and Atty deserving of such an honour. There was no one else, or so Tyms thought.
Volke Savan was a gravedigger. His parents were criminals. He was a nobody. He was nothing. Who was he to think he had the skills or the knowledge to become an arcanist?
Growing up with tales of the illustrious arcanist, Gregory Ruma, Volke had dared to dream that his life could be so much more than what it was. He had to bond with a magical creature, his soul demanded it, and then and only then would the Island of Ruma see him for who he really was. He was not his parents. He was not a gravedigger. He would be an arcanist, and he would be a great one.
However, Volke was not fated to bond with a phoenix. A act of extraordinary courage meant that Volke piqued the curiosity of a Knightmare — a mythical knight, who hid in the shadow world and was feared by many. To bond with such a creature was not a decision to be taken lightly. But these were no ordinary times, and the decision was taken out of Volke's hands — if he did not bond with the Knightmare he would surely die.
From the graveyard on the Island of Ruma to a desperate battle in the Cathedral on the Isle of Luma, Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) by Shami Stovall is in all ways a fantasy triumph.
With a riotous sense of colour and adventure, Knightmare Arcanist is the story of a sixteen-year-old boy who refuses to accept the way his life has panned out. Volke longs for magic and adventure, but above all, he wants to be respected and revered. He will do anything to achieve his dreams — even if that means breaking with the tradition of his island. He is so desperate to break free that his actions are reckless. If he cannot bond with a phoenix, then another mythical creature will do — even if that creature is a Knightmare. Volke is a fantastic protagonist. He is wholly committed to becoming an arcanist despite the odds that are stacked against him. He cannot afford to be a pupil at Schoolmaster Tyms school, so with the helpful advice from a centuries-old staircase, Volke teaches himself what he needs to know to qualify to be considered. Volke's absolute commitment to his dreams made him not only a very likeable character but also a very courageous one. By breaking with tradition, he risks estranging himself from the rest of his community, but he does it anyway, for he knows the reward is so much greater than anything he could ever lose. Volke is a wonderful hero for young adults to get behind. He is very ambitious, but his ambition does not blind him. Volke knows right from wrong, and he can recognise corruption when he sees it. He learns some painful truths during this book — not all heroes are as heroic as they seem to be, was probably the hardest one for him to come to terms with. He is, however, a natural leader, and even Zaxis, who Volke initially sees as his rival, his enemy, becomes the very reason that he survives the battle in the Cathedral. I thought Volke was wonderfully portrayed and I am really looking forward to reading more about him in the upcoming books.
There is a wonderfully small friendship group in this book between the young arcanists of The Frith Guild. Initially, there is a lot of rivalry between them. But as this book progresses, the reader realises that they want the same thing — a place to belong. And this they find with each other.
There are many fantastic beasts in this book, but my favourite has to be Nicholin, a very rare ferret-like creature called a rizzel. Nocholin may be small, but provided a great deal of the humour in this book. His witty one-liners and his playful attitude was incredibly entertaining! Likewise, Luthair, Volke's Knightmare, was an interesting creature. He is the stuff of nightmares, hence the name, and his appearance is sinister, but he is pure of heart, and he will defend Volki with every fibre of his being. I thought Luthair was very vivid in the telling.
The threat in this story is the terrible plague that is ravishing the mythical creatures. Once infected, the creatures transform into a corrupted version of themselves, and it also renders them insane. This disease ravishes these beautiful creatures, and the arcanists are desperate to find a cure for it, as well as discover what has caused it. The plague, along with the pirate attacks makes this a turbulent time in which to be a young arcanist. Volke has, by the end of this book, several encounters with plague-ridden creatures, which gave this book a sense of dark menace. And as with all good light and dark books the illustrious hero, the man Volke looks up to, is ever so slightly tarnished upon closer inspection. Volke learns a valuable lesson that a person's facade is not necessarily an accurate reflection.
With a novelist intuition for what hooks young adults and keeps them reading and a narrative that is as boisterous as it was exciting, Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) has a lot to recommend it. Stovall has not only penned an enthralling book, that is filled to the brim with magic, mythical creatures and heroism, but it is also one that is next to impossible to put down. Knightmare Arcanist had me captivated from start to finish. I have not enjoyed a young adult fantasy so much since J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. Knightmare Arcanist is a book that young adults and adult alike can get very excited about.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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Shami Stovall relies on her BA in History and Juris Doctorate to make her living as an author and history professor in the central valley of California. She writes in a wide range of fiction, from crime thrills to fantasy to science-fiction. Stovall loves reading, playing video games, entertaining others with stories, and writing about herself in the third person. Connect with Shami: Website • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads.