*I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.*
Blurb: Forced from my home, I find myself fleeing from the evil forces that killed my father. My mother and Sebastian, our protector, are by my side — but for how long?
I soon find myself travelling with a circus led by a kindly man called Konrad, but my young mind doesn’t know who to trust. Sebastian seems less at ease with every passing day. I’m struggling to cope with the tragedy that has befallen me, and the world now seems a lot more dangerous than I had ever imagined.
My name is Prince Valiant, and I am a Child of Leif.
I loved this book.
The first sentence of the prologue gripped my attention and dragged me fully into the world Chris Pridmore has created and I remained fully immersed until the last full stop. In fact, I think part of me is still there, lingering around the carriages hoping to catch a whisper of what happens next!
The characterisation is superb. The main characters are fully realised, and their relationships and interactions are compelling. Even minor characters have secrets and histories, motives, strengths and flaws. Every character introduced is distinct enough that you feel they could have their own story if the author chose to write it. There are no stereotypes here: the characters are all unique and it is difficult not to become invested in all of them, not just the leads.
The plot is exciting and perfectly paced. We start in the prologue with a flash-forward to our protagonists (Prince Valiant and his protector, Sebastian) in peril; then go back and fill in what happened to lead them to that point. By the end of the book we have not yet reached the events in the prologue, but the shorter story arc is at a nice pausing point ready to lead smoothly into another installment without too much of a cliffhanger.
The pacing and rhythm are perfect throughout the story: enough exposition to fully develop the characters, whilst keeping the momentum going on the plot with plenty of action. As this is evidently the first book in a series it tells the early part of our protaganist’s story, but the author avoids the trap of using it as a staging ground for action to follow in future books and provides instead an immediately compelling and well-rounded narrative from the start.
I particularly enjoyed the bursts of moral, philosophical and theological discussion scattered throughout the dialogue. The issues are viewed differently according to each character’s life experiences and beliefs, and as in real life there are no right and wrong answers; just greater understanding and more questions.
This book is perfect for fans of Robert Jordan, Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss or Mercedes Lackey: there is the same rich worldbuilding paired with an equal attendance to nuanced characterisation and gripping plot.
I can’t wait to see what comes next, and will be recommending this novel personally to my friends and family. Full marks.
I was born a prince, and now I’m being hung as a traitor. How did I come to this…?
– Chris Pridmore, The Last Child of Leif
Check out more from the author (including some short stories about some of the side characters, and an excerpt from his next book!) here.