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Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Rider: Spirals of Destiny: Book One

Rider (Spirals of Destiny)Title: Rider: Spirals of Destiny: Book One
Author: Jim Bernheimer
Page Count: 248 pages
Publisher: Gryphonwood Press
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: By all accounts, Majherri the unicorn should have died in the desert when his rider did.  He didn't, however, and when he bonds with a second rider, sixteen year old Kayleigh Reese, that's just the start of the traditions that they start bucking in the face of a danger that will challenge everything they know and love.

I confess: I am a unicorn girl.  I have all kinds of figurines and my room growing up had all kinds of posters and memorabilia, kind of like the girl from Dodgeball, although I didn't have the life size unicorn in the living room.  But I digress.

Anyone, my history as a fan of the ethereal yet imaginary creatures made accepting Rider: Spirals of Destiny for review a logical choice.  I was not disappointed- this is a quick yet vivid fantasy story that will appeal to fans of adventure, mystery, and magic.

Kayleigh is one of those female heroines who's likable because she's authentic, honest, and hardworking.  Her position as a recruit for the battle maidens at the age of sixteen is unprecedented and she's very aware that most folks don't want her around.  She has a strong moral compass and a need to do the right thing, which means that other people take advantage of her pretty much from day one.  They love to be around her when she's doing something that benefits them, but the minute that she needs help or support they're running away like a horde of angry weiner dogs is snapping at their heels. 

If Majherri were to have a book consisting exclusively of his thoughts, it would be entitled "Rantings of a Cranky Old Unicorn."  As if it weren't enough that he has to deal with having survived what should have been a death blow (in this world, unicorns do not survive the deaths of their riders) but now, because he's not only survived but has bonded with someone else, he's back at training with other unicorns who are babies compared to him.  He has nobody to talk to, nobody to confide in, and again, everyone who does associate with him has ulterior motives.  He finds the idea of leaving and striking out on his own very appealing to say the least.

Much of the book focuses on Kayleigh's time as a first year recruit and her training, and if one element comes through loud and clear, it's the role that prejudice has in poisoning relationships (Kayleigh's commanding officer is the sister of Majherri's dead first rider) and the danger of becoming locked into an unyielding methodology and mindset (instead of being celebrated as potential assets, Kayleigh's unprecedented abilities and strength are viewed as dangerous and detrimental because the trainers don't know how to handle them.)  This failure to grow with the times and to move on is very interesting in light of the events at the end of the book, which show that not only is Kayleigh destined for bigger and better things, but that people's refusal to see what's right in front of their faces can lead to deadly consequences, especially when folks with rather loose morals decide to shake off their yolks and do something unexpected.

According to the author, the second installment in this series will be ready for summer 2011, and I for one can't wait to find out what else is happening in this universe.  The cliffhanger ending, the mysterious developments in the final chapters, and some twists and turns that I didn't expect mean that there are a lot of secrets to unravel in the next volume.

Overall Grade: A
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