The Warden by Daniel M. Ford – ARC Review!

There was a plan.

She had the money, the connections, even the brains. It was simple: become one of the only female necromancers, earn as many degrees as possible, get a post in one of the grand cities, then prove she’s capable of greatness. The funny thing about plans is that they are seldom under your control.

Now Aelis de Lenti, a daughter of a noble house and recent graduate of the esteemed Magisters’ Lyceum, finds herself in the far-removed village of Lone Pine. Mending fences, matching wits with goats, and serving people who want nothing to do with her. But, not all is well in Lone Pine, and as the villagers Aelis is reluctantly getting to know start to behave strangely, Aelis begins to suspect that there is far greater need for a Warden of her talents than she previously thought.

Old magics are restless, and an insignificant village on the farthest border of the kingdom might hold secrets far beyond what anyone expected. Aelis might be the only person standing between one of the greatest evils ever known and the rest of the world.

Aelis de Lenti was hoping for a prime placement after graduating the Magisters’ Lyceum, especially with her skills in Necromancy, but life never quite works out as we plan and she instead finds herself punted off to the farming village of Lone Pine doomed to a life of mending fences and corralling lost sheep. That is until a band of travellers appear and things start getting a little weird, Aelis slowly comes to realise that this small town may be more in need of her Warden skills than she first thought. With old magical relics making a re-appearance and secrets coming to light, Aelis might be the one thing standing between these people and an evil that would destroy them completely.

Aelis was a brilliant character. She’s curmudgeonly, thinks she superior to her role in Lone Pine and longs for the comforts of home… mainly a house without a hole in the roof. When she first reaches Lone Pine she finds a small farming village filled with people more likely to shun her than ask for her help, something that suits her just fine. But the more time she spends there, the more she realises that as much as fear is a good motivator, respect can be just as good & she slowly starts to immerse herself into the village, forcing her help on people and showing them that, as long as they don’t do anything illegal, they have nothing to fear from her. She’s witty, incredibly handy in a fight and I loved the amount of introspection we get from her, not just learning about her personality and history, but the author also uses it to give us an insight in the world and the magic system.

Though Aelis is our MC, Ford treats us to a brilliant cast of side characters that absolutely leap off the page. From Pippin, the girl who instantly takes a shine to Aelis from when she first steps in the village, Maurenia the Half Elf who Aelis takes a shine to, Tun the recluse who lives on the outskirts of the village and finally Rus and Martin, the Innkeepers who are the few members of the village who don’t instantly shy away from Aelis when she first arrives. All these characters are well developed, some getting more time than others, but they all play pivotal roles in the story and I enjoyed getting to know them all. The character interactions were probably some of my favourite parts of the book, the snark, with and drama that they bring really add to the story and definitely had me laughing out loud in parts.

I enjoyed this book, but the way it was told felt a little disjointed in parts. We get a lot of introspection which, as I mentioned above, I didn’t mind because through it the author gives us a lot of information about the world and the magic, it’s more that Aelis seems to have these ‘introspection episodes’ at really sporadic and sometimes annoying parts of the story. Sometimes this worked in the telling of the story, if she was getting ready to use a spell we would get a snippet of her time at the Magisters’ Lyceum showing her learning the spell, but others seemed to crop up out of nowhere and sometimes take you out of really pivotal parts of the story. This also affected the pacing of the story in parts and I found myself speeding through some parts, whilst feeling as though I was slogging through others.

All that being said, I did enjoy reading the parts of the book where we learn about the world and magic. Ward gives us a real deep dive into Aelis time in the Magisters’ Lyceum, and I would love to have actually started the book there so we could see more of her time in the school and her learning process. The scenes where she used her magic were brilliantly written and played almost like a movie in my head and the action scenes really made up for the slower parts of the book because they were incredibly well written. There were a few twists thrown in, some that I enjoyed, others that seemed to come out of nowhere and didn’t make a lot of sense with the story we had been told, but once the story starts hitting the final moments you see all the pieces start to come together.

The story ends on one of the most cliffhangery cliffhangers ever ( I know it’s not a word but just go with it.) I genuinely had to go back and make sure I hadn’t missed anything because it just ends. Seemingly in the middle of a pretty pivotal scene which is extremely clever because I am definitely eager to get my hands on the second book, despite the issues I had with this one. If you like your fantasies a little on the quirkier side, with a stoic and reserved MC who I can definitely see becoming the grumpy mentor type in the later books, and don’t mind a few pacing issues while the story gets going than I would definitely give this one a try.

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