Thursday, June 17, 2010
The Keepers of Sulbreth by Susan Gourley
Fantasy, Paperback, Review Copy
Book 1 of the Sulbreth Chronicles
Summary from Gazelle
In this magical, medieval fantasy, forces must combine to save the kingdom of Futhark from the evil abyss that threatens it. Sitting within this land and high above an unexplored sea is Sulbreth, the seat from which the Otten family has always ruled. Standing next to their throne are the Keepers, gifted sorcerers who hide a guarded truth only the king understands. When Prince Jonared takes the throne, he also inherits a tragic and dark shadow ready to befall his land. He and the Keepers summon Sabelline Shelton, a rare sorceress gifted in metallurgy, for a duty she has always feared. But even her exceptional talents are not enough to forestall the soulless enemy issuing forth from the dark places of Futhark. When Cage Stone enters Sulbreth in a tournament to secure his sister's future, he too is called by a prophetic destiny to help fight the otherworldly foes and renew the seals that protect their kingdom.
Take note of the key points: magical medieval fantasy. And in it - a female protagonist. That's my kind of book! I don't think I need to explain why fantasy is good, but the medieval part is important. I like it when technology isn't involved in books (I do adore sci-fi, but fantasy has the edge). I like hearing how characters have to cook/have food cooked for them, the difficulties they have in sourcing the food. I love the costumes described, how they have to wash things by hand, weave objects, sew clothes and linen. Sabelline doesn't necessarily sew linen, but she does end up with a needle in her hand. That needle is her least favourite part about her role as a Keeper.
Keepers are very special, they are the ones who can wield magic. Perhaps because they can be absorbed in spell casting, Keepers have to have protection. This protection is found in the Marshals. Cage doesn't realise he is about to become a Marshal. I feel sorry for him, with all the plotting going on behind the scenes. But neither Cage nor those wanting him as Marshal realise just how vital he will be in Sabel's life.
Sabel is definitely a character to love. She's got a great sense of humour, she's highly talented but has some weaknesses (needles in particular). She's dreading having a Marshal, and becomes surprised by Cage's abilities. He saves her countless times. She is capable of defending herself, but when magic is involved invariably there are enemies who can't be defeated by one lone Keeper. She doesn't always listen to authority, and gets a bit peeved at the internal politics among the Keepers.
Much of this story is based on how Cage becomes a Marshal. It is about his and Sabel's life, but also the people around them. Cage's family play a significant part in the story, one which I feel will continue in the later books Also playing significant roles are Sabel's fellow Keepers and new King (can't forget about him). For me all the characters were believable - I either loved them or I hated them. I didn't see the twists coming, but they provided great cushion-in-front-of-eyes moments.
There is a romantic element involved here - one which is not overdone and will be in future books (almost definitely). It does involve Cage and Sabel...but they aren't the only ones! *rubs hands together* No, I'm not spilling the beans. All I will say is that you will be champing at the bit for the next book (I'm writing this while Ascot races are on in the background). The book ends with Cage and Sabel beginning their journey to the destination that Sabel has been training to visit, a land filled with danger at every turn. Life at home was bad enough - I dread to think what will happen to the duo in that particular land.
Content wise: a bit of fighting, a bit of demon gore. nearly mildly sensual but nothing happens.