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Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: The Battle Sylph

The Battle Sylph (Sylph Series)
Title: The Battle Sylph
Author: L.J. McDonald
Page Count: 330 pages
Publisher: Dorchester
Genre: fantasy romance
Copy for review obtained via netgalley.com in anticipation of an honest review


He is one of many: a creature of magic, unrelentingly male. He is lured through the portal by pure female beauty, a virgin sacrifice. She is killed, and he is silenced and enslaved.

Such a dark ritual is necessary. Unlike their elemental cousins—those gentler sylphs of wind and fire—battlers find no joy in everyday labor. Their magic can destroy an army or demolish a castle, and each has but one goal: find his queen, then protect and pleasure her at any cost. What would a maiden do if she were given such a servant? What would befall that kingdom foolish enough to allow a battler to escape? Young Solie and the people of Eferem are about to find out.

Despite the kind of creepy synopsis, this is a relatively light book, for lack of a better term.  The setting of the story is very detailed and engaging, but free of the complicated trappings that sometimes bog down an opening book in a fantasy series.  There are no fifty page descriptions of complicated rituals or excerpts from fictional religious tracts or names that look like how the sound a sneeze makes would look if spelled phonetically. Instead, you are presented with the fact that all these things happen but at a pace that keeps the story moving.

Solie is an interesting main character.  She has a mind of her own, which we first encounter as she's set off on foot from home to avoid an arranged marriage to a guy she deems completely unsuitable in every way, and she's not afraid to show it.  She also has tremendous care and concern for other living things, which is probably why she falls just as fast for Heyou (yes, hey you) the battle sylph as he falls for her.

Heyou is, likewise, an interesting character in his own right.  It's through his experiences and narration that we learn what the battle sylphs are looking for when they're lured through the gate from their world to this, and a virgin sacrifice isn't it. Instead, that sense of grief and loss is infused throughout the rest of the book, and as a result, characters that should have been enemies end up being allies in a really clever way that worked for me.

The flaw for me in this book was in the uneven pacing and character development, specifically for Heyou and Solie.  Throughout the book they were referred to as being like two teenagers in love, but I never could quite shake the feeling that functionally, they were teenagers, which kind of takes the yay factor out of a romance for me.  Sometimes a character's young age doesn't bother me (think Sienna in Kiss of Snow) but here it kind of shook me out of the world of the story and made me not buy into the relationship as much as I would have if the characters had acted a little...older.

Likewise is the kind of annoying fact that Solie chooses really inopportune times to realize that she may have made a gigantic mistake.  It doesn't occur to her until she's on the run after narrowly escaping a bloody death that maybe running away from home isn't such a great idea; it isn't until an entire community of refugees is depending on her that she starts to think that maybe she doesn't want so much responsibility.  I mean, she puts on her big girl panties and deals with things when this happens, but it got to the point where I was saying, less talk and more rock my friend!

None of this was enough to deter me from reading the rest of the series and I grabbed the next one for Kindle right after finishing this installment.  The groundwork is laid for a really exceptional series, especially in the arena of setting and world building.  While the characters were a little shaky for me, I'm definitely interested in watching them grown and gain depth in future installments.

Overall Grade: B
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