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PB, 421 pages, Kristell Ink

Buy it From Amazon – part of the Great Grimbold Discount Weekend!

Sophie E Tallis’s debut novel his been given a new cover, a fresh edit and a whole new lease of life by those splendid people at Kristell Ink (for more on that story take a look at my interview with Sophie yesterday), and I’m reviewing it now as part of the Great Grimbold Discount Weekend, which sees all 20+ current Grimbold books on sale across Amazon for a mere 99c / 99p. Go shop. I’ll wait.

Cover by Danil Shunkov - the novel is also illustrated with line drawings by the author

Cover by Danil Shunkov – the novel is also illustrated with line drawings by the author

The novel, the first in a projected series, is set both in our world and alongside it, in the spaces between things, in the lost forests and hidden mountain caverns of an otherworld that’s almost close enough to touch. Three friends, Marvalla Agyk, his dragon companion Gralen, and the young witch Wendya, are drawn into a quest to defeat an evil changeling wizard whose dark sorcery threatens both the supernatural world and the human one. It is predicted that one of them will not survive the encounter…

It’s clear that Sophie Tallis takes great delight both in playing with language and in the natural world. She has said the novel was inspired by nature and landscape and that comes through in her writing, in the descriptions of the world the travellers pass through and the deft turns of phrase that lift this above a standard magical quest. It owes a debt to the the past masters of fantasy, to Tolkien and Lewis, and it’s a book that isn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve. Traditional fantasy, maybe, but with a playful modern touch.

One aspect where the book falls down slightly is the constantly shifting point of view, particularly noticeable in the final climactic battle with the evil Morreck at his semi-living fortress. The author tries to show the perspective of the battle from the point of view of around half-a-dozen different characters, leading to a series of short, very choppy scenes that prevent the reader from becoming fully immersed in the three heroes fight for life, at a time when the story would really benefit from having just one or two viewpoint characters. But hey, I’d rather see an author trying hard and not quite hitting the mark than being lazy and not trying at all, and it’s clear Sophie Tallis has put her all into White Mountain.

The book isn’t marketed as YA, but I think it would suit early teen readers finding their way into fantasy, and anyone who takes delight in clever language and timeless storytelling.