Author: M. R. Mathias
Pages/ Length: 315 pages/ 6 hrs, 33 mins (audio)
Release date: September 12, 2012/ June 19, 2013 (audio)
Publisher: Michael Robb Mathias Jr.
When I first saw the cover of this book, I was intrigued. An elf looking guy riding some sort of giant battle cat? Sign me up! The description of what the book was about hooked me. I love stories about rogues, princesses, battles and magic. What fantasy fan doesn't? Well, this book certainly didn't disappoint. it has all those elements, and more, all wrapped up in a well written original package.
Vanx Malic, a half-human and half-Zythian (think elf), has been sold into slavery after he has an affair with a Duke's wife while he worked at an inn as a bard. The Duke can't execute him, so he arranges to have him and the caravan he's on all killed on the road to his new home. Unfortunately, what the Duke didn't know is that the Duchess sent their daughter, Gallarael, along with some guards, to buy Vanx's freedom. Well, this goes about as well as you'd expect. The caravan is attacked, although it's not by the Duke's men, who have all been killed. It's by Trolls, who have killed the Duke's men and plan on killing and eating the members of the caravan.
In the confusion, Vanx, Princess Gallarael and her head guard Trevin, who is closer to the princess than he should be, manage to escape on a haulkatten (pack/battle cat) and make it to the Wildwoods, the huge forest that is supposedly haunted that no one returns from. After some travel, they meet up with two other members of their caravan who managed to escape: Matty, one handed pickpocket and courtesan turned slave and Darbon, a blacksmiths apprentice. This is fortuitous, since the princess has been stung by a poisonous plant and is in a coma, and they have the tools for Vanx to use his woods lore to brew a salve to slow its spread. They continue on through the Wildwoods, trying to make the next large city in hope of saving the princess, not aware the Duke is now after them as well with his men.
As they reach the edge of the wild, they discover a wizard in stasis, and this leads them into a much bigger conspiracy involving trolls, the royal family and an evil wizard bent on his own evil plans for conquest. They still have to try and save the Princess, who is slowly dying of the poison, of which the only cure can be found on an island full of hostile dragons! As the book ends, Vanx and Trevin go on a desperate search for the cure, while hopefully thwarting the conspiracy.
This was the first book I read by MR Mathias, and it was a lot of fun. The characters are well drawn out, being fleshed out through interactions with other characters and some internal monologue. Vanx is a great rogue type character, being middle age at 52 by human standards but barely and adult by Zythian standards, so he has a view of both worlds. Gallarael is a damsel type character, but she has hidden strength. The rest of the characters have some flesh added to them as well, really rounding out the party. The world setting is well thought out, and detailed well. The plot is fast paced, serious and humorous in turn. All in all, a fun adventure fantasy story that will make you want to get to book two.
As far as narration, Gregory Silva does a decent job keeping the listener engaged, giving each character their own voice. He was consistent with their voices, and keeps the frills to a minimum. A solid performance.