Covenants, by Lorna Freeman. Fantasy. Paperback, 560 pages. First in the series.
This was an excellent debut novel by someone I've never even heard about. And more the pity, because Freeman's book had everything an epic fantasy needs: a talented young man of peasant nobility who runs away to the Army, a magical being who attaches itself (ok, himself) to him, and a war to stop. Add in a large cast of multi-dimensional characters who almost all grow and change over the course of the book, action, magic, mystery, betrayal, and of course the Plutonium Dragon, and you get book one of a New Epic Fantasy Series (dum dum da!). The only thing - thankfully - missing from the story was any kiss of romance. Romance would have needlessly tangled an already complicated plot and forced it out of its all-male starring cast.
When the story opens, Rabbit (a human of indistinct brownish description) is a regular horse-riding soldier in the Royal Army of Iversterre. He enlisted as a farmer's son who left the Border lands in order to "See the world." While trying to get his troop un-lost in the mountains, Rabbit encounters a Fae cat named Laurel. Laurel is on his way to see the human king in order to stop the killing and smuggling of Border residents (cats, dragons, trees) through the human lands. The adventure starts in the Border, goes all the way to the royal palace in Iversterre and then all the way back to Elanwryfindyll, an unpronounceable elvish coastal city currently hosting the Border Council.
Ok, so my praise is up top. It was a good book. But it wasn't perfect. My complaints are three. 1) While almost all of the names given to everyone regardless of race or species (trees, dragons, elves, sprites, etc.) are easily parsed and pronounced, Freeman insists on "traditional" (Tolkien?) location names that cause tongue sprain. 2) Freeman dropped in three female characters in positions of power but not plot. Gee, thanks. If you are going to bother, at least make someone on the girl team important and interesting. And 3) The editor got tired or I started getting picky. On page 400, I started noticing the weird editing anomalies.
I picked it up on Quixotic_Goat's recommendation.
I recommend it to fans of Terry Brooks' Shanara or possibly Patricia Brigg's Dragon duology. Though, interestingly, after I finished it, I kept thinking about girl books like By the Sword and The Hero and the Crown.Books for 2013