Fae – The Wild Hunt (The Riven Wyrde Saga Book 1) by Graham Austin-King, is an engrossing debut fantasy novel that captures the imagination, becomes personal to the reader, and unlocks the mystery of a world written descriptively beautiful by one of the best self-published authors this reviewer has ever read.
+ Writing style is extremely descriptive and honed
+ Dark fantasy that isn’t grimdark
+ Not just individual characters we care about but groups of characters
+ Holds back enough information to tease the reader
+ Split-narrative showing two sides of a conflict
– Passage of time is difficult to gauge at times
– Split-narrative might not work for everyone
– A few lulls in the narrative that the reader has to push past
Similar Works: Pan’s Labyrinth movie
Plot – 4: Fae is a successful split-narrative story focusing on the coast line of a kingdom called Anlan and an island named The Barren Isles. The narrative on Anlan begins with a son named Devin and his mother escaping an abusive husband when the mother is taken from the son by an unknown creature in the woods. Devin is found, half dead in the woods, by a couple that nurses him back to health, and adopts him. Devin becomes a part of this small town with a host of different characters that we come to care about.
Kloss is a young man that lives on The Barren Isles that is wanting to become a raider. The Barren Isles can not support the amount of people living on the island so they resort to raiding Anlan for goods. Kloss grows up and becomes a leader in the army that The Barren Isles are building to invade Anlan. When Kloss arrives on the mainland of Anlan things aren’t what they appear to be.
Other than these two sets of people, there is also a mysterious third group that people believe are just old fairy tales. When the tales start becoming true, we have Anlan defending against The Barren Isles invaders, but this third group might just be the true threat.
I really enjoyed Fae’s split-narrative. At first it was a bit jarring because I wasn’t expecting it but once I learned what the book was trying to do I became even more intrigued. It is always great to see both sides of a conflict and reasons for what they do. Everyone wants to prosper and survive but sometimes someone has to pay the price of war. The book is relatively mysterious about everything. There are not many info dumps and we learn a lot of the world through the eyes of the characters.
Even though I enjoyed the split-narrative I know that not everyone will. It is going to be a hit or miss with some readers because some might think that one narrative is of lesser interest than the other. The biggest issue with the narrative is that you have to try to decipher the passage of time yourself. When the narratives shift, you are at first unsure if it has just been a month, or if it has been 5 years. Austin-King does a good job of not letting us get too confused but some readers might be looking for more hand holding.
There are also a few points in the story where the narrative slows down considerably to focus on the characters. I do not mind this, as I am a character driven reader, but I noticed myself taking more breaks while reading during these scenes. Overall though, the plot has my interest, and I’m excited about reading the sequel, as this book ended on a cliff hanger.
Characters – 3: The characters in Fae are not bad characters by any stretch of the imagination but I could not classify them as very strong characters. I believe that Austin-King wanted to write a book with point of view characters that were relatively normal and had varying personalities. As the series goes on I think the characters will grow stronger but shorter split style narratives usually have weaker characters at first. Kloss was an engaging character and I enjoyed his character development, as he progressed in the narrative. Devin on the other hand was much more interesting as a child than he was a teenager. His character seemed a little bit whiny and self focused when he grew up, but if the intention of the author was to display a teenager, then Austin-King succeeded. I’m hoping for more character progression out of Devin.
I found myself liking the town of Waddengate and the group of men that surrounded Kloss. Waddengate had a varying amount of interesting men and women in the small town that when things started to go badly, I was concerned not just for the main characters but for everyone. Kloss’ friends and men that surrounded him were your typical tough Viking-like group. They seemed tight and I enjoy that camaraderie in books.
Setting/World Building – 4: The world building in Fae was one of my favorite parts of the book. It was just unlike anything I’ve read recently. The world was very similar to our own, in fact there are a lot of parallels in this book with the Viking invasions into England around 1066. I love that section of history and the similarities did not bother me, in fact it made me more interested.
The mystery of the Fae was superbly handled in this book. I don’t really care for the explanation that this book is a dark fairy tale because it just doesn’t fit for me. I don’t think it is very fairy tale in nature because the majority of the book did not even focus on the Fae. To go back to the England invasions, I would compare the Fae to the Irish Picts, a group that is clouded in mystery.
The world just has a texture and feel to it that not many self-published writers have. There is a realness or a sturdiness that some authors just don’t have with their world by Austin-King does with Fae. I think that has a lot to do with Austin-King’s great descriptions and patience while giving away information about the world.
Writing Style – 4: Graham’s writing style is descriptive and engaging. I personally really liked it but other readers might find it too verbose. For a self-published writer I think it is great and it is only going to get better. The dialogue wasn’t something that stood out to me but it wasn’t necessarily bad. The descriptions are what stood out to me, especially the descriptions of the landscape, and Fae.
Mind and Heart Factor – 4: Fae – The Wild Hunt has something that engaged me and kept me invested emotionally from the very start. The start of the book grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let you go until it jars you with the split-narrative. Intellectually it is interesting to consider these two groups of people and how they view each other. There were times when I wondered how many times this actually happened in our world’s history, two groups, separated by land and language, that are alright with killing each other. When people died in this book, it was brutal, and I think that the misunderstandings between the two groups made each death sad in a way.
I recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a darker fantasy book with less showy elements. This is a slow burn type of book that isn’t extremely exciting but has a lot of fantastic elements to create an experience while reading. I’m excited to read the sequel.