Champion of the Scarlet Wolf, Book 1 and 2

Title: Champion of the Scarlet Wolf
Author: Ginn Hale
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Release Date: October 7th 2014
Genre(s): Fantasy
Page Count: 1022 pages for book 1+2
Reviewed by: LenaLena
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Five years after abandoning the Sagrada Acedemy (Lord of the White Hell universe), Elezar Grunito has become infamous in the sanctified circles of noble dueling rings for his brutal temper and lethal blade. Men and women of all ranks gather to cheer and jeer, none of them knowing Elezar’s true purpose. But a violent death outside the ring marks Elezar as a wanted man and sends him into hiding in the far northern wilds of Labara.

There, creatures of myth and witchcraft—long since driven from Cadeleon—lurk in dark woods and prowl the winding streets. Soldiers and priests alike fear the return of witch-queens and even demons. Elezar soon learns that magic takes many forms, some too alluring to resist, others too terrible to endure. But just as he begins to find his place in this strange new country, the past he left behind along with his school days returns to challenge him once again.

This was a good continuation of the White Hell series. I wouldn’t recommend reading this without first reading The Lord of the White Hell 1 and 2, but that can hardly be called a hardship. Ginn Hale is one of the better Fantasy writers in the m/m world and these books are no exception. There is lots of wonderful world building, written in evocative language (that manages to avoid straying into purple prose). There is a large and diverse cast of characters and a meaty plot. The romance builds slowly throughout book 1 and is rock solid in book 2.

It was good. But not great.

As far as I am concerned, this book could -should- have been shorter. I know, doorstoppers are the norm in Fantasy land, but the middle of both these books sagged quite a bit. In book 1, there are too many chapters that feature our heroes running through the city for one reason or another and in book 2 the saggy bit revolves around endless battle preparations (and battle scenes) and feats of magic that get exponentially more stupendous. Considering the way the crisis gets resolved, all the prep is overkill and could have been condensed.

Despite the beautiful writing, the meticulously crafted plot line and the beautiful world we’re presented with, the story is just a little too simple for my tastes. It is too straightforward (with the exception of the end of book 1, nothing really surprised me) and everything works out a little too smoothly. The characters are just a little too uncomplicated too. Initially, Elezar seems a good choice for main character. After White Hell, most readers should be intrigued by him. But guilt isn’t a character trait, and here it seemed that it was the main thing that defines Elezar. As a result, he ends up a bit bland. There are many occasions where Elezar forcefully reigns in his rage, and in a real life person that is admirable. For a character in a book, however, it fails to give him an edge or a developmental arc if he always manages to stay in control. There is development in other areas, sure, but all along fairly predictable lines. The same is true for Skellan.

What really irked me was the editing. Not only are there scores of proof reading errors that failed to correct typos and missing words and extraneous words, someone should have caught all the micro repetitions. I lost count how often it gets repeated that Elezar feels like a big brute, or guilty about his past, or how often Skellan seems to have to explain again that he spent 10 years living as a street rat. I think the author/editor should be able to trust that the reader can remember this information for more than a few pages and therefore does not need to be presented with it every time to explain the character’s actions. Give the reader some credit!

The epilogue is a snippet of nothing. The real epiloge, which should have been included in the book, can be found here.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this and I would recommend it to all Fantasy lovers, but it fell just a little short of fabulous. Your mileage may vary, of course.

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Advanced Review Copy

Galley copies provided by Blind Eye Books in exchange for an honest review.

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