A couple of weeks ago I was asked to be a part of YA Author Rendezvous (a website dedicated to YA authors). This is pretty great for me because I can reach out for great advice, promotion help, etc. This is great for you, because it gives me a plethora of great, indie and lesser known author’s to read and review. Coincidentally, as I went on the site to browse through the author’s I discovered one on there who’s book I had just downloaded to my Kindle two days earlier. Weird, right? I took it as a sign and started that book right away. And? And I loved it, and finished the series in about a week. (Yes, my kids are still alive, I did throw some food at them occasionally 😉 ). Now what is this series you ask? (And if you don’t you should). It is the Eldentimber Series by Shari L. Tapscott.
Pippa of Lauramore is the first book. Here we have Pippa who is a bit of a reckless tomboy. She knows she doesn’t want to marry the man her father (the king) has chosen for her, so she convinces him to host a tournament for her hand in marriage. At the very beginning she picks her champion (Galinor) and does all she can to aid him in winning, with the help of her childhood friend, Archer. Along the way, she realizes a lot of things about herself, above all, who she really does want to marry.
Pippa is a great character. She’s selfish and flippant at the beginning which gives her a lot of room for growth. Archer is perfect as a torn, yet fully devoted, friend. Galinor is chivalry personified. And there are so many other great, unique characters. I loved Tapscott’s writing style and the way she bring us to understand our character’s–not through long explanations, but through actions. I liked that the ending surprised me, taking a turn I didn’t expect. I thought the fantasy elements blended well into the story and seemed realistic. I loved that when the main character gets faced with an impossible situation, she goes directly to her friends for help instead of trying to solve it on her own. I loved the relationships shown outside of the romantic ones. There were some things I didn’t like. The flow of the writing was a little rough at the beginning (it improved as the story went on). Occasionally, the author would overuse a word or description within a small area. There were a few smaller plot holes as well. Still, I say this is a solid, enjoyable read that gets better with every page.
Grace of Vernow is actually a prequel novellete, but I would read it after Pippa. This books is short and sweet. Grace isn’t the spitfire Pippa was, but her character is still very likable. The best part about this short story is that it gives us some background into Lionel (the ‘bad guy’) from book one. The author does a great job of showing Grace’s feelings altering in a believable way and gives us another great heroine to root for.
Anwen of Primewood is the next full length novel. Anwen is spunky and utterly trusting, which is probably why she believes herself in love with a man who is using her for a family treasure. I loved the determination of Anwen, and yet, she is kind and loving. She has a way with animals. Even the crazy, mythical variety. One of our heroes from book one comes back to redeem himself in this book. Anwen’s adventure is a journey to reclaim the item she lost and to overcome a horrible lapse in judgement. This book had some intense scenes (her one-time-love becomes a little psycho stalkerish and there’s a pretty gruesome curse). I thought this was handled well by the author and only added to the authenticity of the story. Any hang ups I had with this book, I’ve already mentioned with the first….flow, minor plot holes, etc.
Seirsha of Errinton is book three, but that feels like such an boring description for what is easily the most intense and moving book of the series. Seirsha is the child of a power-crazed king. He’s demeaned and allowed her to be abused her whole life. She is a broken character, struggling to find a way to make her kind heart fit in a cruel world. Pippa returns in this book and she’s perfectly herself. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but a lot of times a book written in first person gives you one impression of a character and then when you see them as a secondary character, they seem completely different. Not so here! Pippa is just as I imagined her to begin with and I loved seeing her in this book. This book has a lot of fantasy elements, but at its heart it’s really the story of a struggling kingdom being ruined by an ailing king and the rebellions that follow. The author calls this book darker, but I wouldn’t let that term scare anyone away. There are darker elements: a girl is raped (this happens off scene–we know it happens but don’t read about the actually event), a wizard barters with life, and someone is executed (again off scene). There is also a battle scene, but all of this is told in such a hopeful way that I didn’t finish the book with a dark feeling. I finished it feeling like the characters had been on an intense journey, but struggled and found their happy endings–despite the hardships. As for the writing, this was one of the most well-written of the series.
Rosie of Triblue is a novella, but I would read it next. This follows a character we are first introduced to in Anwen. Rosie is caught between her gypsy past and her royal friends. She struggles to accept the devotion they give her and often feels undeserving. But she is in no way a weak character. She’s the scrappy fighter, who never quits and is unwilling to be pushed around. She had a disappointing relationship with Irving (best character ever!! The princely Flynn Rider of Eldentimber) in Anwen. Here he tries to win her back. This book is a great story of love and an even better story of learning the difference between a lasting emotion and a volatile attraction. I loved this story, but would have liked to see more. Rosie’s feelings changed almost too quickly and the problem of finding Marigold (Irving’s adopted sister) was solved pretty easily.
Audette of Ravenwood is the final book in the series. Audette is honestly the most kick-butt leading lady of them all. She was a complex character that I never felt like I fully understood. She was fully confident in almost everything, but not in leading the Order she had been left in charge of by birth. I wish this was expounded on more. A man died under her charge? Her brother had lead it for some reason and she just hadn’t taken back over? I wanted more there. Other than that, I loved this book. Audette was just fiesty enough to make her love story believable. (Our hero in this one needed someone who would put him in his place and she did). I think the writing in this one was great. I loved the plot and the fantasy elements were blended in beautifully. I adored the snarky dialogue and flirty characters. One part in particular I loved was how Audette handled what looked to be a bad situation. She was calm and rational about it and didn’t fly off the handle and create unnecessary drama. Imagine! Oh, and the ending was absolute perfection.
Overall, this was a great series. Each of the leading character’s were unique and stayed true to character throughout. Each story had a different plot line and a different set of problems to overcome. I would absolutely recommend this series. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking..but I saw a lot of similarities in Tapscott’s writing style to my own. I will be grabbing her contemporary books next. I think this is an author I’ll never get enough of! Happy reading, friends!