Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Bard Reviews: To Journey In the Year of the Tiger by H. Leighton Dickson

Publisher Description: Kirin Wynegarde-Grey is a young lion with a big job - Captain of the Guard in a Kingdom that spans from the mountains of western China to the deserts of the Middle East. When an ancient threat awakens in the West and threatens to overthrow the Empire, he must lead a team that includes his enigmatic brother, a lethal swordswoman and three radically different and mysterious specialists through a world where humans are legend and animals walk like men.

Review: It’s hard to find fantasy from new writers that isn’t trying to clone previously successful series, but this delightful series by H. Leighton Dickson proves to blaze its own trail as it relates the story of a band of anthropomorphic cats (lions, cheetah, tiger, leopards, etc) undertake a quest to solve a deadly mystery that threatens their Empire. Dickson’s characters are what keep this story moving, and I definitely connected with her dysfunctional family along their lengthy journey.

Books base on fantasy versions of medieval Europe are endless, so it was refreshing that Dickson’s setting is a fantasy version of China instead. The blend of ancient Chinese myth and tradition in her world worked very well to this reader unfamiliar with such things. I was pulled into the story without any lengthy backstory or explanations. In fact, Dickson is such a good writer that even a sudden revelation that throws science fiction into the story isn’t jarring, it just adds to the intrigue. I won’t say more because to do so would spoil the surprise that definitely changes the tone of the entire quest.

What really hooked me was the characters. Dickson takes a stock of familiar archetypes (the stoic, the jester, the arcane, the studious, the fierce, etc) and fills them with flawed personalities that make them all the more appealing. Normally I’m drawn to a single character as a favorite, but I really like the entire band, which is a rare feat indeed. This is a quest story, so there is a lot of journeying. Having characters that keep you intrigued is worth every step of their trek.

Bottom line: I really can’t find anything not to like about this book. Highly recommended to any fan of fantasy, talking animal characters, or an all around adventure story with well-developed characters and a compelling story. Five out of five stars.

Purchased for my Kindle at Amazon.

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