THE FOUR KINGDOMS SERIES
THE DRAGON THRONE:
It has everything required of a fun fantasy adventure. Rival kingdoms, dragons and unicorns, ancient magics and those who wield it. Fianna, eleven years old (though years are a bit different in this world), the heir presumptive, confident, a little-pig-headed, but who understands her place in life, is angered by her father's choice to remarry. Unwilling to submit to this intruding woman, Marissa, Fianna leaves the kingdom to live with her aunt, the bad blood between the king and his sister unending. Thus begins a tale of estrangement, and a battle for power when Fianna's claim is threatened further. Like I said, everything necessary for fantasy fun. But the story delves so much more deeply and complex with the son of the unicorn leader, the Prancer, who leaves his herd for the human settlements, the simple pig-herder Deian, who Fianna becomes friends with, but stubbornly refuses to forge anything deeper, and the ominous red dragon, who starts a chain reaction with a heartbreaking decision early on, that unfolds slowly, and burns deeply throughout the book. Then enter Anton, King of the Unicorn Throne, who socks the reader one right in the kisser with a twist you'd have to be a time-travelling dragon to see coming. Fortunately, even this surprise isn't enough to sigh peacefully and set the story down. No! There is more, much more to come. What is refreshing is that Fianna, though our hero, is not a prissy little princess. She is confident and resilient, determined, and makes a truckload of mistakes, influenced along the way by family she feels she can't refuse and loyals who offer better advice. She persists with her royal image on the surface, but as she grows up struggles to balance the intensifying conflicts in her life. I'm ecstatic to see where her story takes her from here. Deian is her opposite, sweet and quiet. He has a connection to animals that seems to be a much deeper talent, and his best friend is a big grey dog called Alastair. His own journey is led by his severe loyalty to Fianna, their friendship in youth forged deep, and his inability to stray from the path subjects him to ridicule and hurt. One of the best things is the Prancer - the son of the unicorn herd leader, the Dancer - whose mission takes him far from home, on an ale-tasting trip around the kingdoms. Yep, you heard it. Other stuff happens too, but an ale drinking unicorn is basically all I'd need to pick up this book. I'm sold on the world. It's rich and vibrant, intriguing and I thought I knew what was going to happen until the POW moment, but now I don't. Even halfway through the second book I don't know. It keeps getting more amazing. I don't know how anyone could not be enchanted by this wonderful world Cymri has created, but it's certainly enriched my brain.
THE UNICORN THRONE:
I had to start reading this immediately after the previous book because I couldn’t let go. In the sequel to The Dragon Throne, we pick up pretty much where we left off. Fianna is still keeping secrets, and burdening herself under the growing weight of her friendship with the Prancer, whilst he is determined to bring his father to rights after the harsh truths he’s discovered about his parentage. Deian is embroiled in an alien culture, thrown down a path of possible destruction, the dragons are back, and dammit, there’s a war-a-coming! I love that moment at the end of a series when you look back and say ‘Ooohhhhhhhh!’ In fairness, there were a good few of those in this one. All the individual arcs which started their ascent in The Dragon Throne come nicely, but not too quickly, to their conclusions. All the characters evolve excellently, each of them growing in different ways to keep the story interesting and I was perfectly satisfied with how it wrapped up. Not so much that I didn’t want more, but enough to feel that tale was over. You don’t float through this story nicely, you’re tugged along, with every happening that’s so far from easy you have to keep reading to know. There’s obviously the bouts of heartbreak and loss, it wouldn’t have been complete otherwise after the first book’s happenings (!), and all those moments the characters are pushed through hell, which deepens their complexity without hindering the pace. No run-of-the-mill goodies and baddies – all the supporting characters have enough to give you what you need to fill in their story blanks and give a crap about them too (loved Peana, she never failed to impress me). I don’t want to say too much because there’s a lot in the characters’ arcs of importance and I don’t want to spoil it, but it checks every box for the fantasy necessaries (swords, sorcery, unicorns, dragons, magiiiiiiiiiic) and throws in some not so usual stuff. Great writing, hugely engaging characters and a vibrant world that spills off the pages – I still feel it – and a ride you definitely won’t be expecting. Brilliant indie author, absolutely worth every penny, certainly has a fan in me now.
Find Chrys Cymri on Goodreads!