"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

23 April 2012

Review: Covenant of the Faceless Knights - Gary F. Vanucci

Before I do or say anything I must apologise to the author, Gary F. Vanucci for taking so long posting this review. Uni work is just piling up and exams are in a few weeks so I've been studying quite a bit so I've been a little late in writing and posting the review for this book and a few others. Sorry! I cannot wait for a few weeks time when I can just get back to normal. Anyway, Covenant of the Faceless Knights is a debut fantasy novel for author Gary F. Vanucci and it is a thrilling read. He has also published a few short stories concerned with numerous characters within the main novel, so if you're interested in good fantasy then hop on over to his blog where you can learn everything you need to know about the books.

Here's the synopsis of the novel:
When a dangerous artifact goes missing from a temple, the elderly high priest in charge requests the aid of a one-time apprentice. Garius Forge, who is now an Inquisitor among the Order of the Faceless Knights, assembles a small team of heroes and sets out on his quest. He is aided by the wise-cracking Rose, a rogue among rogues, by the stoic and battle-hungry Saeunn, and by a naïve elf named Elec, who reluctantly agrees to accompany them at the behest of the persuasive Inquisitor. The eclectic group sets out to recover the artifact before it falls into the hands of the lich who once held it. Not only do the heroes have to overcome numerous foes, but they must also conquer their own shortcomings in order to ensure the safety of the Realm of Ashenclaw!

Set in an original fantasy setting entitled the Realm of Ashenclaw, Covenant of the Faceless Knights: Beginnings, is an epic fantasy tale wherein a group of unconventional heroes are charged with recovering an ancient and deadly artifact.

Here's my review of Covenant of the Faceless Knights:

4/5 stars: An exciting read. A page turner and had me hooked from the beginning. A great traditional fantasy.

The author of this book, kindly sent me this book to review after enjoying two of his Wothlondia short stories. It is fast-paced and adventure packed and thoroughly enjoying. It is packed full of detailed descriptions of the characters and setting, therefore making the world of and its inhabitants even more realistic and authentic. Vanucci also gives us the viewpoints of numerous different characters, be them good or bad, giving us a wide range of perspectives and therefore allowing the reader to see the story through the eyes of different individuals.  

You are thrown head first into the story and I do like to be in the thick of it straight away. I enjoyed the build-up to the beginning of the quest and being introduced to each of the characters individually.

There were three characters in this book that stood out for me. The first; Rose Thorne. What a feisty, independent woman she is! In the first few chapters I witnessed her skill with a blade, her roguish attitude, her skills as a thief and her special ability to disappear into the shadows. I enjoyed witnessing her humanity throughout the novel. She is so confident and cocky I enjoyed seeing her softer side at times, reminding us that she is human after all with real feelings. I grew to like her and I’m looking forward to seeing what is in store for her in the next book.

Secondly, I admired Elec’s humble personality and his caring attitude towards his fellow companions. He was always thinking of the safety of others and on numerous occasions we witnessed his compassionate side.  His unexpected ability with alchemical potions helps to hone his less than confident skill with a blade. I loved the concept of the magical potions helping him in battle and thought it an original idea. What I loved most of all was his entrance on his mighty steed; an eagle! What an amazing entrance and it really gave Elec that wow factor and I was just as amazed at his mount, as the guards of Oakhaven were on seeing the magnificent beast for the first time. 

Sauenn was also an admirable character. A barbarian survivor of the Chansuk tribe she is hungry for revenge and her strong willed character helps feed her dangerous skill in battle. Although a deadly, blood-thirsty warrior, I also thought she was a vulnerable young woman. Underneath the desire for revenge, I felt there was a grieving little girl just trying to find her way in life and understand the atrocities that had been committed against her people. I just loved her fiery personality and how she just throws herself into battle regardless of the consequences. Definitely one to watch out for.

The level of detail within the book was just immense. I personally love detailed descriptions of characters, worlds etc and boy, this book didn’t disappoint. I just think such a level of detail adds that extra layer of authenticity to the story.

The use of each chapter as a different window was an effective narrative technique in the story. One minute your fighting alongside Rose, flying on the back of an eagle with Elec or traversing the underground passages with Barguth, the goblin and his worg mount. Being able to see the world through the eyes of the bad guys was a great idea.  In most books the story is told through the eyes of the good guy and we partake in his journey alone, but in Covenant of the Faceless Knights I was taken on numerous different journeys.

I must admit I was a little confused at times and felt as if I was being jumping from scene to scene, character to character just too fast. I was most confused when it came to the bad guys as I wasn’t quite sure of what exactly was going on with the two different groups. But I must admit it was great to have a story where we had the baddies perspectives! Also I do enjoy the disjointed chapters and found it rather similar to Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire simply in the way that each chapter was centred on a different character. I do think it’s a good narrative technique as it keeps the reader wanting more and having to read on and on to get back to their favourite characters.

I really enjoyed the book but I just felt that it could have been just that little bit longer! I just think a lot more could have been explained and the story could have progressed at a slightly slower rate therefore incorporating more in the text. My main reason for thinking this is that I wanted to see the relationships of Elec, Rose, Sauenn and Garius develop right infront of my eyes over a realistic time frame. By the end of the book I was convinced of their ever growing close bonds as companions but I do wish that I could have just witnessed more of them conversing and communicating with one another. I’m sure that I’ll see their relationships grow stronger through the trails and tribulations of the next book. It was great seeing the result of their companionship at the end of the book; they all had key parts to play in the quest and played them perfectly. The length really isn’t an issue and maybe it is just my obsession with reading massively long books!

All in all, this was a great and exciting read. I would definitely recommend it to fans of traditional fantasy. Thank you to the author for allowing me to review it. I certainly had an exciting journey alongside Elec, Rose, Sauenn and Garius in Wothlondia and I’m looking forward to rejoining them in the next book!


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