Today, I am pleased to have the privilege of helping introduce a brand-new fantasy novel to you! Our very own Silmaril Awards host, E.E. Rawls has just released her first fantasy novel into the wilds, and I get to shout about it! The author is also hosting an epic giveaway, AND she’s got a short prequel that she’s giving away for FREE! So stick around, because in addition to my own review below, there’s lots of epic awesomeness to be had here!
Cyrus Sole hates life. She’s only half-human, with weak wrists, and not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say something mean about it—especially her step-mom. But when the forbidden power to manipulate metal awakens inside her, she finds herself on the run as the Argos Corps is sent to kill her…
Aken is a Scourgeblood, the last in a line of monsters. But all he really wants is to gain wings and be free. Until a new power suddenly awakens, changing the course of his life…
The Draev Guardian Academy is their only sanctuary. But training to become a Draev won’t be easy. Cyrus has to hide her human side, as she gets placed in Floor Harlow with the outcast students, and nightmares of her deceased mother keep returning.
With creepy Corpsed on the prowl, and whispers of Cyrus possibly being a reborn Hero, both she and Aken find themselves caught up in a web of secrets, racial tension, and an old legend with enemies that could spell their untimely demise…
—This book is a good fit for those who’ve enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy world-building,and the fun of J.K. Rowling.
7 Reasons You Should Drop Everything and Read This Book:
1. Cyrus Sole. I completely fell in love with young Cyrus within the first chapter, and when the story deviated from her storyline to briefly introduce a new character, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to know more about her, about how she was going to handle all the things, and where her story would take her, and what would happen next. She starts out as a sort of Cinderella-meets-Harry-Potter, but there are plenty of unique twists and turns to this tale as well.
2. Aken Shou. Right about the time I was really becoming invested in Cyrus’s storyline, the next chapter introduced Aken and I was a little miffed. However, I quickly came to enjoy learning more about Aken Shou, and found him to be a sympathetic character as well. However, he takes a few of life’s more difficult blows and it changes him a bit from a quiet, introspective boy into a mischievous troublemaker carrying a grudge and a well of darkness within his heart that he tries to hide. And yet, when he lets his guard down, there’s an innocence about him as well that you just can’t help but be drawn in by. The friendship that grows between Aken and Cyrus (though Cyrus is a bit reluctant at first) was another of my favorite things about this story.
3. Nephryte. Quite possibly my favorite character in the entire story… and that’s saying something considering that about halfway through the book I began suspecting that he was actually a villain. I won’t say if my concerns were founded or not… you’ll just have to read the book to find out! The characters in general were all well-developed and each of them had interesting and understandable reasons for the various actions they took throughout the story.
4. The Draev Academy. I would have happily spent many more pages exploring this school. I really enjoyed the few glimpses I saw, and would have enjoyed getting better acquainted. In so many ways it felt akin to getting to go back to Hogwarts, and yet it definitely had its own feel and unique elements as well.
5. Elemental Power Manipulation. I loved the way the author took the basic idea of elemental powers that we see in many different stories and gave them her own twist. Instead of just having the four basic elements of earth, fire, water, and air, she breaks the elements down into even smaller components and each of the vempars have fairly specific abilities and focuses when it comes to their powers.
6. The plot and story… lest you think I got overawed by the characters and trimmings… this book also has a well-paced, epic story surrounding the characters as they struggle to achieve their various goals.
7. The world-building. Speaking of vempars, have I mentioned that I went through a vampire-reading phase when I was about 12? I devoured just about every MG vampire book I could get my hands on, most of them were cheesy beyond all reason, but I loved them. I graduated to Bram Stoker’s Dracula in high school and actually can appreciate Stephanie Meyers for giving them her own unique twist. (Disclaimer: There are definitely parts of the Twilight saga I take issue with and I wouldn’t recommend them to their target audience for many various reasons… but Meyer’s making vampires her own thing is not one of the problems I have with the series). I only bring this up because Strayborn also takes the mythical “vampire” and makes it something wholly unique to this fantasy world. While vempars have the classic sharp teeth, they do not appear to feast on human blood, but rather on human “essence” which can be harvested without actually harming the human. Or at least, that’s the idea. There is a darkness in the vempar culture that Cyrus begins to discover in the short time she has been living at the Draev Academy. I also liked that other mythical creatures and races were mentioned and seen throughout the story, and a lot of history is described… giving the world a feel of largeness and scope without actually having to travel terribly far. If anything, the scope that is hinted at made me wish that I could have unpacked the world itself a bit more, I feel that there is still a lot I don’t understand about Eartha and how it works. I’m still not sure if it is supposed to be some post-apocalyptic version of Earth, or if it is supposed to be completely its own totally-made-up world. Part of what threw me about this is that throughout the book, the Bible is quoted and read and important to several of the characters, which made me feel like this must be some sort of variation on our own Earth…. but that is never made clear to the reader.
A few nit-picky little unimportant things that did not in any way detract from my enjoyment of this story…
I would have loved to see Cyrus spend some more time in various classes and actually learning how to use her powers or at least work on some things like conditioning and strength-training. As it was, there were parts about the end that felt a little rushed and her participation in the big competition was a wee bit difficult to fathom.
The second to last chapter detours away from the main plot and characters to follow a secondary character to his home. While there are important things that happen in this chapter, it sort of came at me out of left field like a baseball zinging the wrong direction and I was left trying to figure out why we couldn’t have gotten hints of this earlier in the story, or if it even needed to be in this book at all.
After the Epilogue, there are several additional scenes called “Extra Bites” that sort of felt like I was getting a view of random “outtakes” the way you might see them at the end of a movie after the credits have rolled. Some of them were interesting, but the tone was quite different from that of the book, which was a bit jarring.
Overall, I heartily enjoyed this intriguing, mysterious, fun-filled story about a young girl searching for her place between two worlds that do not want her. I’m not sure if she’s found her place yet, but she has found something equally precious: friendship and family.
If you enjoy Harry Potter, the Princess Academy, Percy Jackson, and non-sparkly vampires… I’m sure you’ll love this book!
Four Lovely Dragon Eggs
And read the exciting prequel to Strayborn, Storm and Choice by signing up for E.E. Rawls’ newsletter.
First place: One hardback copy of Strayborn, and one Percy Jackson soy/vegan homemade candle by A Court Of Candles.
Second and Third place: One ebook copy of Strayborn.
Ends on Monday, October 21.
E.E. Rawls is the product of a traveling family, who even lived in Italy for 6 years. She loves exploring the unknown, whether it be in a forest, inside a forgotten castle, or within the pages of a book.
She runs on coffee, cuddly cats and the beauty of nature to keep the story wheels of her mind running, as she writes tales that will both entertain and inspire others, giving them worlds they can explore and become lost within.
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So what do you think, dear Reader? Does this story sound intriguing? What is your take on vampires? How about fantasy academy stories? Do you have a favorite of either? I’d love to hear from you!