This is Kristen Britain's first book in this series. I think it's a good first effort, but I feel that she missed a few things that really would have made it stand out.
As fantasies go, it's a standard, "youngin' who doesn't know she has magic powers" type of story, but that's not necessarily bad. Every now and then I like to read stuff like this because, in the right hands, I can be transported away from the present and can become the MC and live vicariously through that character.
Reminds Me of Tolkien
And Ms. Britain says in her acknowledgments that she was introduced to The Lord of the Rings at a young age, and it's obvious (at least to me and some Amazon reviewers) that she took a number of things from LOTR.
Not that that's a bad thing - and she doesn't cleave onto it like other writers have. (If you're going to be heavily influenced by past writers, at least make your writing your own. That includes invented beasts and invented languages.)
Karigan G'ladheon (yes, the dreaded apostrophe!) is expelled from school and runs off into the nearby forest. A Green Rider - a rider who couriers messages to and fro - emerges with black arrows in his back. He tells Karigan that she must get the message bag to the king; an important message is within, and the messenger knows he's not going to make it.
All sorts of magic happens to Karigan, almost from the get-go, although she doesn't understand why. She touches a brooch that she gets from the rider, wishing herself invisible when some men start following her (um, they don't want to ask her to dance ;-)).
She manages to get out of that one, coming to with two elderly ladies checking her out, Miss Bayberry and Miss Bunchberry.
(For LOTR fans - these are the equivalent of Tom Bombadill.)
They live in an interesting house, inhabited by ghosts, telling Karigan that their father was interested in magic and picked up all sorts of magical paraphanelia over the years. She's deposited in a room by herself, picking up a moonstone that lights up at her touch (that hadn't lit up - ever - for the Berry sisters), wandering over to a telescope.
(Think of the telescope as Galadriel's mirror - that basin in the movie that Frodo looks into and sees things that may come into being - or not.)
This has the same affect on Karigan - she sees people and events, but such people and events will only happen if her life continues as it is. They see Karigan off, giving her a couple of magical things that they hope will help her, if she needs them. (Of course she uses them.)
I would've liked to have seen these characters developed more, as they were quite fun (two spinster aunts, with impeccable manners? Yeah, works for me.) Karigan gets involved with a couple of brigands who tie her up and push her along to what Karigan thinks is going to be her death.
She finds out that there's some kind of intrigue going on in Sacor City, which is where the king is. What exactly that intrigue is, is what the story ultimately is about. (Yes, magic is involved, as well as gameboard called Intrigue, believe it or not.)
The Final Verdict
The last 40 pages or so really dragged for me. I skimmed a lot, but I managed to figure out that some of it was important.
If Ms. Britain had developed the spinsters and a couple of the other characters (the female brigand was pretty well done, though), I think I would have enjoyed this even more. Also, cutting out a lot of words near the end of the book also would have made it more enjoyable.
I give it a C because it's a good first effort. Whether I'll read the rest in the series - don't know as yet. This one is a standalone, thank goodness, so if I decide to pass on the rest of the books, I haven't lost anything.
All in all, an enjoyable read, but it could have been rendered a tad better than it was.