Windsworn by Derek Alan Siddoway
I’d read all the Lindsay Buroker books my library carried, so I was looking for some new fantasy to read. I downloaded this when it was free on Amazon.
As a blacksmith’s apprentice, Evelyn has no fear of fire. Heights, however, make her dizzy. When the rare red gryphon egg hatches for her, she must leave her foster father and join the band of elite gryphon riders. Not all of them believe her worthy of the red gryphon, but as she struggles to overcome her fears, she discovers a plot to undermine the Windsworn. The secrets of the ancients could bring the kingdom to war, and the secrets of Evelyn’s past may be the key to stopping them.
Evelyn is supposedly nineteen years old, but her character reads as though she were thirteen, fifteen tops. Nineteen-year-olds are also immature, but in different ways. Evelyn’s reactions and concerns are those of a much younger girl. As a shy girl myself, I should have resonated with Evelyn, but her insecurities were so overplayed that I had trouble connecting with her. She is described as being much taller than the other, younger recruits, but given the age of the average girl’s growth spurts, that would make her classmates really young. Overall, I think the author missed his characters’ age characteristics by a huge margin.
The other characters—the quirky friend, the handsome boy, and the various teachers and leaders of the Windsworn—fill the needed roles in the cast without adding much more depth. The one character who sparked my interest, Sigrid, made her transition from enemy to friend far too quickly, and the author failed to explore her background/motivations. He did, eventually, describe her origins, but only as a convenient plot device. That backstory should have been integral to her character throughout the story.
The plot followed a usual academy-style fantasy direction—with the character adjusting to new training and, of course, discovering the sinister plot that only she could solve. It slowed a bit while describing the Evelyn’s lessons, but I enjoyed the traps and puzzles in the catacombs toward the end.
The author hinted at a particular candidate for the villain. I would have been disappointed if Evelyn’s suspicions proved true. As it was, the villain wasn’t a massive surprise, but at least it wasn’t the obvious choice.
*End of Semi-Spoiler*
This book desperately needs a good line edit. Many of the sentences were so clunky they were difficult to follow. I almost put the book down after Chapter 1, but I was craving fantasy tropes, and I knew this story would hit them. The writing improved by the end, but Siddoway should have edited the beginning more.
Based on the book’s progression, I’d predict that the next installment in the series would be much better written. Unfortunately, the author did not earn enough of my trust to convince me to shell out $7.99 for the e-book. I enjoyed the fun romp through the catacombs, but the writing needs work. The plot and tropes were predictable, which I don’t mind, but Evelyn does not act her age, and the other characters lack the depth to balance her inconsistencies. Though gryphon riders are always cool, and I’m intrigued by where the story is headed, I won’t be continuing this series.
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