Book Review: Broken Arrow

To all my beautiful people,

It makes me supremely proud to have the chance to review this book for you.

Not often do I get the chance to read ARC copies for up and coming authors. When those copies are the first book in a series, it’s common for me to read one, enjoy it, and never read the rest.

However, I’ve recently read a book for a young friend and I must say that it’s something that I would be interested in reading again, as well as having the opportunity to read its sequels.

This book was written by a young lady on my writing forum, Neverland. Because of this, I’m excited to share this with you.

I recently posted concerning the importance of being involved with other writers and the opportunities doing gives you. For me, that opportunity is getting the chance to see young authors make their way in the world–and to read really great books. Obviously.

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Before we begin, I want to introduce to you the author. Azaria M.J. Durant is one of my many children on Neverland. She’s a darling young lady and an excellent writer.

Azaria.eAzaria M.J. Durant is a passionate writer of fantasy with plans to branch out into science fiction and dystopian. She enjoys writing stories with lots of adventure, unexpected twists, and fleshed out characters that challenge gender roles and expectations.

Azaria lives in Atlantic Canada with her family, cats, and dogs, and her big dreams to travel the world. In the moments when she isn’t writing, she is sketching concept art for her stories, participating in community theatre, or curled up with a good book and a box of mint chocolates.

If you would like to get a chance to talk to her or order a copy of this book, get in touch with Azaria on her blog, Instagram, or Facebook. You can also order a copy of Broken Arrow for yourself at this link.

So what is Broken Arrow about? This book is a classic adventure fantasy with 51BmpSSYUJLdragons and princes and curses and beautifully written characters. I loved having the chance to read it.

Because I have a hard time explaining books sometimes, here is the description listed for this piece.

An ancient power long kept dormant stirs in the shadows once more as one boy embarks on a quest to earn his freedom and the freedom of his world!

Magic has turned to myth, the Vaelhyreans of old to legend, and the power wielded by the ancients has long been forgotten. However, with Ealdred, a mere half-breed slave boy, myth becomes real, the forgotten remembered, and the power of legend is reborn within him.

Ealdred is merged into a world of mystery, brimming with deceit, where the remaining Vaelhyreans are in a desperate fight for their very survival. When Ealdred is kidnapped by the power-mongering dark lord Zeldek himself, he must make a choice; to commit his newfound magic to Zeldek’s service or die. But when he meets Bellator, clever yet treacherous servant of Zeldek, an alternative is presented to him: to escape from Zeldek’s stronghold and embark on a quest to find a cursed arrow and free the Vaelhyreans from the spell that keeps their powers at bay.

Yet how can he survive in a world where magic is illegal, half-breeds are hated, and the four countries are on the brink of war?

 

What I liked

One of my favorite things about this book was watching the world and mythology grow and develop. It felt rich and nuanced, aged and settled. There were unique details scattered throughout it, bits of lore and ideology here and there (as applied to the story), and just a very unique and developed feeling overall.

Something I often see in writers is that they don’t put effort into developing their worlds past what is necessary to know for the story. I could tell that this writer went above and beyond that, that they understood their world and were unfolding all its secrets a little at a time.

And that–to me–is something that promises me that a story will be good. When I see a rich and diverse culture unfolding, it’s a wonderful thing, but when it feels aged, tried, true, and still unique…that’s an incredible thing to be able to have the chance to read. And I certainly felt like this author did an excellent job of not only creating and developing her world, but also of portraying it through her story and characters.

Another thing that I really appreciated about this story was that the characters remained consistent to themselves. For example, Bellator is obviously a very Jack Sparrow type character in that she does what needs done to benefit herself. She will seem to do one thing, but then lies to people because it suits her purposes, and does something else while manipulating others to her own plan.

Granted, this probably makes her sound like a villain. However, she’s much more complex than that–because she acts and reacts like an intelligent person to everything going on around her.

To me–Bellator represents humanity at its finest. We’re selfish, manipulative creatures when it comes down to it (even though we try to be good). And I found it refreshing, not to see that type of character, but to see one who was consistently that way throughout the book.

Many times authors will change the character slightly or something to make it work for their plot because characters like Bellator cause “trouble” for the author. While I can agree that this is sometimes the case from the writer’s perspective, I loved seeing that Azaria did not fall into that same pit with this character and that even though the circumstances changed the character, who the character was at heart did not change.

What could have been stronger

For me, it’s often hard to read fantasy. Granted, it is my favorite genre. And that’s half of why it’s a struggle to read. Because many times it’s so predictable, because I’ve read so widely, that I know what is going to happen. There were a few places where this happened for me, but I can’t reveal them without causing spoilers. So suffice to say that though I’m glad the snake didn’t win and neither did the bad guy, the ending was a little spoiled for me because (from having read way too much fantasy) I could see it coming.

This wasn’t awful for me because there were a lot of other things I didn’t expect along the way, and because the big plot twist at the end for the main character and his family…well, suffice to say that I wasn’t expecting it and it was a great play on an old cliche.

The only thing I occasionally really struggled with in the book was the dialogue. Generally, the dialogue was very well paced and felt as rich as the world, with carefully chosen words and meaningful subtext.

However, there were some scenes and some random exchanges that occasionally had dialogue that felt very modern in terms of its verbiage. This pulled me out of the book a little bit and made me stop and question how a character might actually respond based on my knowledge of the world and time period angle.

Why I’m interested in reading more

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, rarely do I end up reading a whole series. I can count on both hands entire series that I’ve finished. Not because they weren’t good, mind you. Just because I either had to wait too long for them to come out and I lost interest or because I was bored from the start.

Admittedly, it takes a lot for a book to keep my attention–particularly when we’re talking 400-500 page novels.

For me, with this book, the world was so rich and earthy that I felt like I could wrap myself up in it and live there for a while.

To me, a world such as this is worth waiting on. Couple that with beautifully written and developed characters and a well paced plot, and I’m 100% invested. I look forward to seeing what Azaria has to offer her readers in the future.

A little treat for reasons

Well, dears, generally this would be where I would close the article. However, I’m very excited now to get to share with you a short interview with the author!

Azaria and I took some time to really talk about the development of her book/series and its world and characters, and I believe that you will really enjoy hearing about it. Keep reading below for more information and an excerpt from the book! 🙂

CS Taylor: Tell me about yourself in a sentence. 

Azaria M.J. Durant: I’m a small fluffy bunny who thinks she’s a dragon, but is actually just a tiny fluff ball that can sometimes spit fire (usually by accident). 

CS Taylor: What are your 5-10 favorite books/series? 

Azaria M.J. Durant: The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Ascendance Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Ivanhoe, Harry Potter, Rolf and the Viking Bow, The Queen’s Thief Series, and Pride and Prejudice are all in my top favourites.

CS Taylor: What or who inspired you to write?

Azaria M.J. Durant: True story: I started writing because I’m supremely competitive. I was eleven, and I heard that my older brother was doing something called Nanowrimo, and I wanted in. I’d never written something on the computer before and I couldn’t type worth anything, but I started that year with a goal of 20,000 words and finished with a little over 22,000. It was then that I realized that I really liked writing, and when I came up with my next book idea, I decided that being an author was what I wanted to do with my life.

CS Taylor: What inspired this story? Where did its inception begin? 

Azaria M.J. Durant: The Hunger Games is actually what inspired the original idea of this story. I was fourteen when I first read it, and I immediately decided I wanted to write something equally as spectacular and heart-wrenching. I had always loved fantasy, but I’d never attempted to write it before. So I thought: what would happen if I crossed Lord of the Rings with The Hunger Games?

Obviously, the story ended up entirely different (the original idea is now a plot bunny for another story), but a few of the characters from Broken Arrow were based off of Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings characters. For example, Bellator was loosely based off of Katniss, and Marianna was based on Eowyn. Over the six years of writing Broken Arrow and its sequels, they’ve developed very much to become their own unique, beautiful selves.

CS Taylor: As someone who loves beautiful, intricate worlds and mythologies, can you describe/give insight to the process of creating this one?

Azaria M.J. Durant: If I’m being honest, there really was no method to my madness when I was creating the world of Theara. The idea of creating a brand new fantasy world was both daunting and exciting to me, so I needed to simplify it. So I drew a blob on a piece of paper, put random sections through it, and then made up a lot of gibberish to name the countries. Over time, those seven or eight countries narrowed down to five, and I was able to focus more on fleshing each of them out and giving them a personality of their own.

Valamette was the first country created, naturally, since it’s where most of the story takes place. I wanted it to be beautiful and resilient, in spite of being picked on by the countries around them. And of course, their arch nemesis Zandelba needed to be the opposite of their ideals (in spite of the vast similarities I also added; for example, both are based off of medieval European culture). Lavylli was the most fascinating to create, as the kingdom is entirely underground (although you only get references to it in this book, you’ll get to see it in all of its splendour in the third book). I’m still in the process of fleshing out Avia.

The mythology was probably my favourite thing about the world to create, as I love weird explanations about how things come to be. The Beresiak (gift animals) are the most interesting part for me, with the Great Black Bear of Zandelba and the Pheonix of Valamette’s battle to the death, the Dragon of Avia’s healing breath, Lavylli’s Wyrm that forged its people from crystal, and the Tragedy of the Wolf and the Peryton of Sylvaria. The first of these stories is told in Broken Arrow, but the rest will come in later too.  I took these mythologies and made them a part of the culture, which influences the actions of the people in the story and defines them as part of their specific country. A world divided that must be united.

I should stop talking now, because I could go on about this for days.

CS Taylor: Who is your favorite character and why?

Azaria M.J. Durant: Bellator, hands down. I love everything about her! Sure, she can be a pretty big jerk at times, but she’s strong, and clever, and shares a lot of the same weaknesses as I do. I created her at a time where I was just learning about myself and trying to figure out who I was, and she really helped with that. I ended up putting a lot of myself into her as a result. When I was creating her, I put in everything that I wanted a strong woman to be portrayed as, and she did the rest. She’s extremely stubborn, and hates that she’s not the main character. It can be a problem.

CS Taylor: Do you have a favorite moment in the story?

Azaria M.J. Durant: There are a few moments throughout the book that I really loved writing (the majority of them involve Bellator), but there was one section in the second half of the book that was all Ealdred that I especially like. Every time I read through to edit, I’m grabbed and reeled in by this scene.  

It is the scene where Ealdred is dragged by his medallion to the tombs beneath Gerithold while Hamish looks on in surprise and confusion. I really love how that scene came together with the pacing, the sadness as well as the humour, the mysterious chanting as well as the looming truth that is then revealed to Ealdred.

At last, the medallion seems to reach its destination.  It lurches to a stop before a set of double doors.  They swing open before me, and the amulet throws me forward.  I stumble into a large room and the pendant drops to my chest with a thud.  I blink, looking around.

A massive cavern opens up before me, lit by a stream of light coming from an opening in the ceiling somewhere far above.  Stone monuments that look disturbingly like coffins are set in even rows all throughout the room and the air is scented by some kind of putrid spice. I shudder as I realize the purpose of the hall.

It is a tomb.

– Broken Arrow pp 357
CS Taylor: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Azaria M.J. Durant: The hardest part, I think, was not so much aspects of the story, but finding my own writing voice. I remember having someone who happened to be a university English teacher critique my writing one time and this person told me my writing didn’t have a personal voice. It really bothered me because I didn’t know what they meant by that and I didn’t know how to fix it. But over the years that I spent writing this book, I think I was finally able to find my unique touch.
CS Taylor: How do you think writing this story helped you grow as an author? What did it teach you?
Azaria M.J. Durant: This being my project throughout my teen years, there are so many different ways it helped me grow. It’s impossible to narrow down. But I know for a fact that before, my descriptions were so long-winded and boring and my conversations were cut out, so those have been revolutionized since then.
CS Taylor: Do you have any advice for young writers trying to forge a path for themselves in the world of fantasy writing? 
Azaria M.J. Durant: There are a lot of clichés in the fantasy genre that people pick on all the time; lost princes, dragons, orphans, falling kingdoms, and prophecies. My advice? Just ignore people. Write what you want to. Sure, there are so many elements of story that have been used, but you know what? No one will write your story like you will. And hey! Clichés are clichés because they work and people like them. Just write your story and enjoy it.

For those of you interested, please do look into getting a copy of this book. It’s a wonderful, enticing read with delightful characters. If you would like to get a chance to talk to her or order a copy of this book, get in touch with Azaria on her blog, Instagram, or Facebook. You can also order a copy of Broken Arrow for yourself at this link.

Well, dears, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed hearing about this book, and I look forward to sharing some new news with you in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for that.

Take care.

Your unaffectionate supernova,

CS Taylor

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Broken Arrow

  1. This is a very in-depth and well thought out review! Honestly, I think you were spot on when describing both the book’s strengths and its weaknesses. Dialogue has always been a writing struggle of mine (most likely because I’m not that great at in real life either, lol). I shall definitely keep an eye on my modern tone as I continue the series. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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