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Written By Bardlyre

Darkhelm cover.jpg

This is one of the toughest reviews I’ve ever had to make. I made a promise to always be honest in my reviews, but I also worry that what I’ve written below may come across as overly negative. As such, I’d like to start off by saying the following: If you are a fan of traditional fantasy with multiple characters, deep characterization and impeccable writing, this story is something I believe you would absolutely love. People sometimes ask for me to include non-LitRPG and non-Progression Fantasy stories, and while I know why this story chose to use the label, I personally wouldn’t represent this as a LitRPG/Progression Fantasy. With that said, Bardlyre is a much better wordsmith than I am, and I want more people to read this book. Truly, go read this book.

One of this book’s biggest strengths is the prose. As stated above, the author does an amazing job at telling the story with an array of words that are varied, entrancing and interesting to read. The writing itself is what lifts up the story, without the need for too many gimmicks or heavy-handed action scenes. And where those action-packed moments do appear, there are many, they’re done in an impactful and meaningful way.

The characters are also well thought out and thoroughly fleshed out. The evil characters are truly evil, while no one else is what I would deem as truly ‘good’. Almost every single character’s motivations are clear, allowing for you to either sympathize or wish serious harm to the character who is being highlighted in the current passage.

Some of the scenes were also jaw-droppingly satisfying. It’s hard to mention them without spoilers (go read this book!), but when the darkhelm faces off against the earth mage… great idea, and great execution. And that part of the story is a definitive tone shift as the story progresses.

The imagery and themes in this story are also really well done. One of my favourites is when the main character, whose role is to walk one path in the western section of the kingdom as the iron fist of the king, dons her armour and simply stands in the road for anyone to see and pass by on their way to *something I can’t spoil*.  She doesn’t antagonize, nor does she provoke anyone to violence, but she acts as a symbol for all to fear.

The mage, the evil son, the young orphan – all very well done and awesome characters.

To my gripes. As I hope I’ve shown, I am very happy I read this book. With that said, there were several times where I almost didn’t make it to the end, and I believe that’s due to some of the following reasons. The first is the overuse of multiple character POVs to tell the story. While I did enjoy several of the chapters, because the writing is very good, I felt that these stoppages happened a bit too often and didn’t always move the story along. As such, while I often enjoyed reading these chapters, I think they were overdone. Secondly, some of the writing was a bit passive at times, which was consistent throughout the story. And again, while written very well and beautifully, I think an injection of pace would’ve been helpful in the first half of the book.

Overall, my main issues were with pacing.

With all this said, I’ve wavered on what to give as a rating. In the right hands, this could be a 5/5, while in others it could be a 3/5. As such, I’m going to give it a 4, smack in the middle!

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