Lisa J. Yarde, a.k.a. The Brooklyn Scribbler, and author of On Falcon's Wings, had already given me a great review on my "Other Reviews" page, but she sent me another that's more in-depth. Thank you, Lisa.
Warning: This has spoilers.
“You now have a choice, and it will take great courage to choose the right. From this moment on, you will be walking the path between who you are now and who you were born to be. All I am asking you to do is let yourself make the journey….” – Arathor’s letter to Kieran, Eldala
In Eldala by Michelle Gregory, Kieran, the orphaned heir to the throne of Teleria discovers the truth of his origins in a letter from his father King Arathor. When Kieran discovers the truth behind his identity, he goes on a quest to recapture his father's kingdom, and find the childhood friend he lost. Little does he know that she is key to unlocking his destiny.
As a baby, Kieran becomes the adoptive son of a blacksmith. His father, King Arathor asks the man to shelter the child from the kingdom’s enemies. On his twentieth birthday, Kieran discovers his unexpected heritage. Although he angrily rejects the truth at first, after Kale produces Arathor’s sword, Kieran is hard-pressed to obstinately deny the past. He has seen the long-hidden weapon in his dreams. Another image from the past also haunts him; the memory of a dark-eyed friend, Jessara, who was lost to raiders in the forest during their childhood. Prompted by memories of her loss, Kieran assists a young woman against a brutal soldier and must flee to avoid the authorities. He reluctantly seeks out Arathor, with his mischievous foster cousin as a companion. Along their journey, Kieran discovers the dangers of the world outside his village. When a beast attacks his cousin in a cave where the young men have sought shelter, Kieran soon learns that their rescuer is his father Arathor. It is Keiran’s destiny to restore Telaria to its former glory, and unite its warring factions under a king’s rule. His quest may also allow him to discover Jessara’s fate and rescue her. But before he can do that, Arathor’s enemies capture him.
Eldala is as much Jessara’s story as it is Kieran’s. Although she was prepared for marriage with her relative Stefan from childhood, Jessara’s chance meeting with Kieran changed her. It is a mysterious, yet deep connection that has persisted despite the time and distance between them. Now, Jessara lives a miserable existence as a slave in the palace of the usurper Rahnak, whose lust frightens her. His queen Ciara is especially dangerous and volatile. When a wounded stranger arrives at the palace, seemingly destined for marriage with Ciara’s daughter, Jessara nurses him back to health. She also feels a powerful pull toward him, and recognizes it is Kieran. The pair has greater worries than an awkward reunion. Escape from Rahnak and Ciara’s clutches seems near impossible, and unless Jessara and Kieran can put aside their hesitancy and suspicious, their future and that of the Telarian people seems bleak.
As a fan of very limited areas in genre fiction, I surprisingly enjoyed exploring the fantasy world Ms. Gregory has created in Eldala. She accomplishes it by keeping the reader focused on the diverse cast of characters, especially the lovers. It helps that the chemistry between Jessara and Kieran is palpable and intense. Jessara is admirable for her unfailing courage and love for Kieran, despite the intervening years. The emotional journey that Kieran undertakes, in which he learns to be a fighter and a leader of many people, is inspiring – the coming-of-age for a young man who discovers he can be more that he ever anticipated. The characterization is very good; Kieran’s pain, suffering, confusion and joy laid bare on the pages of Ms. Gregory’s work allows the reader to intimately know his hopes and fears. I thoroughly enjoyed Kieran and Jessara’s journey, and hope to read more from Ms. Gregory in the future.