*I received a free ARC of this book. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: The fiercest knights in the realm are coming together to compete in the Joust for Arwin’s Lance, a tournament that will divide even the closest alliances. The winner alone will have the power to start or prevent a war from unfolding across the peaceful lands of Pentavia.
House Hornbolt, a prominent family that desires peace above all else, is hosting the tournament. The Hornbolt’s have always been strict followers of tradition. The first-born son wears the armor of a knight. The second takes the priestly Oath of Arwin. And the daughters get married off to the most eligible suitors.
The eldest son is the favorite to win the tournament. But the rest of the Hornbolts aren’t as eager to follow the paths laid out for them. What if the second born wants to be a knight too? And what if the eldest daughter just gave her heart to a common thief?
Customs are meant to be broken. But that’s not all that threatens to shatter House Hornbolt, not when a secret deeper than the late king’s grave is unearthed right before the joust.
The fate of Pentavia hangs in the balance as war becomes imminent. And the scales are about to tip.
One wrong move and everything could fall to pieces.
Wow! First, I have to say that the title does NOT do this book full justice! I was expecting a medieval romp; something like Monty Python’s Holy Grail or All’s Well That Ends Well but with more jousting. Instead this was an immersive, exciting and emotionally charged epic fantasy drama. The tone is light-hearted, but with more depth than the title initially suggests.
The plot is packed full of mystery, intrigue and adventure, with spies, assassins, thieves and knights. There are touches of romance, salted with the taste of harsh reality; practicality, indecision, loss. There is magic and religion; men (and women) and monsters, and it is not always clear which is which.
The book starts with a slow, steady build-up, introducing us to the world and the characters, and establishing the various points of conflict. Then the authors assemble the players at the critical event and drop the flag, and off they go! I literally could not stop reading… it felt like I knew the characters and was totally invested in their outcomes.
Which was the other major strength of this book: the characterisation and character development are superb. We get to read chapters from different character perspectives, and they, without exception, believable and gripping. Parents worry about their children’s happiness, whilst simultaneously blindly following their own dreams for them, and failing to recognise the dichotomy; teenage boys are obsessed with fighting, girls and glory, and just cannot see what anyone would see in their sisters; teenage girls bicker with and support their sisters, underestimate their brothers and moon about bad boys and romance. These might sound stereotypical, but they are not. They are real and recognisable, and the characters live on the pages as you read them.
I held my breath at the sneaky bits, smiled at the banter and the familial affection, and shed a tear at… no spoilers! 😉
I’ve seen this book compared to Game of Thrones and can see the likeness, although I would argue that the darkness ratio is less bleak here (no rape, torture or incest). I certainly think fans of Robert Jordan and other epic fantasy writers would enjoy this, and personally hope the authors have book 2 ready to go, because I need to know what happens next!
Also, much as I love Jax, I am with Aldric in the below quote:
Jax shrugged. “All is fair in love and jousts.”
“You can’t just replace a word in an idiom with ‘joust’ and have it make sense,” replied Aldric.
“Sure you can. Jousts speak louder than words. Don’t count your chickens before they joust. It takes two to joust. Kill two knights with one joust. Be careful what you joust for…”
“Fine,” conceded Aldric. “Maybe you can.”
– Ryan Hauge & Ivy Smoak, Be Careful What You Joust For
Find more from the authors on the links below:
Be Careful What You Joust For releases on Amazon on 17th April.