Reading level: Young adult
E-book: 270 pages
Publisher: Self published
Release date: March 13, 2013
Source: Review copy from Xpresso Book Tours
Reviewed by: Jenn
Terror strikes the Celtic inspired kingdom of Nemetona when barbed roots breach the veil of a forbidden land and poison woodsmen, including 15-year-old Lia’s beloved father. Lia and three others embark on a quest to the forbidden land of Brume to gather ingredients for the cure. But after her elder kinsman is attacked and poisoned, she and her cousin, Wynn, are forced to finish the quest on their own.
Lia relies on her powerful herbal wisdom and the memorized pages of her late grandmother’s Grimoire for guidance through a land of soul-hungry shades, trickster creatures, and uncovered truths about the origin of Brume and her family’s unexpected ties to it. The deeper they trek into the land, the stronger Lia’s untapped gift as a tree mage unfolds. When she discovers the enchanted root’s maker, it forces her to question everything about who she is and what is her destiny. Ultimately, she must make a terrible choice: keep fighting to save her father and the people of the lands or join with the power behind the deadly roots to help nature start anew.
First of all, I'd like to apologies to Christina and Giselle of Xpresso Book Tours. This was supposed to go up on July 2 with Christina's "When I'm Not Writing" post but I ended up celebrating Canada Day with a bad case of food poisoning so I didn't have a chance to finish writing my review. I'm posting it now in the spirit of better-late-than-never since it's a story I quite enjoyed and think that you might too.
Overall, I thought ARROW OF THE MIST was a solid young adult fantasy novel. I really liked the protagonist Lia. She kind of reminded me of Merida from Brave with her red hair and unladylike pursuits. And I adored Merida so this is a compliment in my eyes. =) I also liked how Lia has embraced the traditions of her family -- the old ways -- even when they're not exactly popular with the locals or with the royal family. I think it shows her guts and strength of conviction, both of which are tested throughout ARROW OF THE MIST.
Fantasy fans will see many familiar tropes but this doesn't detract from the story. You have your different races, like dwarves and fairies, and some archetypal characters like the sage grandfatherly figure and your Samwise Gamgee-type stalwart traveling companion but everything is well executed so ARROW OF THE MIST doesn't feel like a retread of established ground. Each of the characters has enough personality to help them stand out, though I was most partial to Lia and her grandmother, who is dead but still has a strong presence in the novel thanks to her grimoire. I wasn't terribly keen on all the rhyming going on in the grimoire -- I found it to be a fairly repetitive device -- but I did enjoy watching Lia puzzle out the riddles. Some of the answers seemed a big obvious but Lia acquits herself nicely throughout the story.
I think this book will appeal to fans of Maria V. Snyder's Glass and Healer trilogies, and also Sarah J. Maas' work, since ARROW OF THE MIST features a strong female protagonist in a coming-of-age story. It's an enjoyable YA fantasy and I look forward to seeing what Mercer produces next.
P. S. How gorgeous is this cover? It's one of the most eye-catching covers I've seen -- traditional or indie pubbed -- and I think the artist deserves major kudos. =)