Shami Stovall is a multi-award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction, with several best-selling novels under her belt. Before that, she taught history and criminal law at the college level, and loved every second. When she’s not reading fascinating articles and books about ancient China or the Byzantine Empire, Stovall can be found playing way too many video games, especially RPGs and tactics simulators.
If you want to contact her, you can do so at the following locations:
Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.
Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.
So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.
In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.
Volke wants one thing in life, to become an Arcanist. A person capable to wielding magic, he just needs a magical creature to bond with. When he fails to bond with the Phoenix’s that are native to his Island, Volke and his best friend Illia head to the Endless Mire in search of magical creatures they heard had ship wrecked off the coast. There Volke has to bond with a Knightmare, a creature of legend, made of shadows, there is just one issue. The Knightmare has already been bonded before and now has only one goal, to find and kill the person responsible for his previous masters death. They come to an agreement of sorts, one that allows Volke to travel to the Mainland to begin his training, whilst also letting Luthair search for his masters killer. The only problem, he seems to think that the killer was Gregory Ruma, legendary Arcanist and Volke’s personal hero. Volke, Illia and the other trainee’s must work together to find out the trust, is Gregory Ruma behind the magical Plague or is someone setting him up?
This was such a fun and fast paced read. Volke was a typical 15 year old boy, he want’s to become a hero like the legendary Ruma, and if he catches the eye of Atty, a fellow Arcanist then whats a guy to do? He came across as slightly self serving in parts but we have to remember he is a teenager, if anything I found the slightly annoying characteristics made him more realistic. Teenagers act out, they don’t always know the answer and sometimes they make terrible decisions. The way the characters interacted was spot on for the age range, something that a lot of YA authors don’t seem to manage. We meet a multitude of other characters, mainly Arcanists and the magical creatures they are bonded with.
Whilst this may sound like an over done trope the author manages to make it wholly her own. All the creatures have their own personalities, my favourite having to be Nicholin the Rizzell who basically just wanted to fight everyone. They also have their own abilities; Phoenixs having power over fire, Knightmares over shadows etc and I thoroughly enjoyed when Volke and Illia travelled to the mainland and we get to see them training to use their magic. I especially enjoyed seeing Volke going through the trials that come with being ‘second bonded’. We learn pretty early on that it is something that rarely happens, and usually means the Arcanist has a hard time learning to use their bonded magic.
The world building was brilliantly done. Each magical creature has a ‘region’ that it lives in and for that reason specific Arcanist’s come from specific areas. We also get to travel with Volke and crew on the back of a MASSIVE TORTIOSE! I got huge Pratchett vibes with that one, but loved again how the author completely made it her own.
My only issue with this book it that the synopsis gives away a MASSIVE spoiler! When I read it I thought that we would learn who the baddy was early on, but instead it gets dragged out through the book. So when it’s time for the big reveal, there just isn’t one because we already know who the bad guy was. I know this isn’t really an issue with the book itself, I just think the ending would be much more shocking if that wasn’t revealed in the synopsis.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found myself overly invested in the outcome, especially that of a certain drunk and grumpy tutor. An easy and fast paced read, I just wish the author had left us guessing rather than revealing the bad guy in the synopsis.