There’s often a certain joy in discovering a new fantasy world. A new location conjured to life via the written word, replete with its forms of magic and mythological creatures, a new society, and how these elements all fit together. In this instance, this new fantasy world is Okarria, as chronicled in Odriel’s Heirs (as well as its sequels and novellas; look for my reviews of these over the next couple of weeks), conjured to life via Hayley Reese Chow’s written word. And when I began reading this novel, I found a genuine joy in discovering this new world.
Not long after I started reading Odriel’s Heirs, I was taken by the book’s world. Okarria has been brought to vivid life by the author, a world that feels lived in by its occupants, with an intriguing magic system including necromancy and the zombie-like “Lost,” dragons, various truly unique fantastical creatures, the god Odriel, and Odriel’s titular heirs: the Dragon Heir, the Shadow Heir and the Time Heir. As if that wasn’t enough, Odriel’s Heirs also features a talking cat. As the novel continues, Chow continues to expand upon the world, deepening it and adding to its vibrancy. In doing so, she doesn’t sacrifice the book’s story or its characters, and the world building is built into the prose in a way that ensures the story keeps moving without stopping for exposition.
If there is one star of Odriel’s Heirs, it’s the book’s prose. Chow’s writing is arresting, presenting the world, those who inhabit it, and the story in beautiful, picturesque detail. The writing transports the reader into the book, seeing everything through its protagonist’s eyes. Sentences flow together poetically, drawing the reader in and keeping them there. As I read the book, I marvelled at the beauty of Chow’s choice of words and how they fit together to tell the story. Unfortunately, there was the occasional typo in the book, and some sentences include excess words. These are only minor issues, but thanks to the beauty of the writing, they stand out more than they often would.
The beauty of the prose also serves as a double-edged sword for the novel’s target audience. Odriel’s Heirs is a young adult story; a coming of age tale about seventeen-year-old Kaia. Chow’s language used is elaborate, and while adult readers should appreciate it, I can see younger readers—those at the lower end of the suggested 13-17 age group—struggling with it, and the amount of metaphors weaved throughout the text. At 196 pages in paperback (an estimated 198 pages on Kindle, or nine hours and thirty-two minutes if you’re listening on Audible), it’s a digestible length, particularly for younger readers. However, the book feels longer, thanks to its complexity; something I love about it, but fear younger readers won’t.
As a coming of age story, Odriel’s Heirs succeeds beautifully. Kaia serves as the sole point of view character, and through her, the reader experiences her life. The story takes her from her humble life on a farm, persecuted by those around her. As the Dragon Heir with the ability to conjure fire, she is feared by others, as well as by herself. Kaia is a chosen one, and through the story, she grows from a young girl full of self-doubt, to one confident in her abilities. While I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, I don’t consider it much of a spoiler to discuss Kaia’s burgeoning romance, something that I found was evident early in the book. This is handled wonderfully, in a rarely natural way. Rather than feeling a “slow burn romance,” it felt like two characters finding each other and their feelings simply growing for each other as the story progresses. The chemistry is there to begin with, and builds in a way that feels true to the characters, instead of filling a void.
Kaia is an engaging protagonist. She is relatable and somebody the reader can’t help but feel for. She is put through a lot throughout this novel, both physically and emotionally, and she reacts to everything in a natural, human way. Her growth serves not just the story, but Kaia herself, and experiencing this growth is a joy. The major supporting character, Klaus, is a pure joy to read. In many ways the opposite of Kaia, he acts as a great foil, and the interactions between the characters sing. Despite not serving as the point of view character, he is fully formed, and could support a novel (and maybe series) of his own. The other characters fill smaller roles within the book, but are all enjoyable to follow.
Given Odriel’s Heirs’ length, it is perhaps no surprise that the book moves at a speedy pace. The plot is full of thoroughly entertaining action sequences that flow well. The plot moves swiftly towards its end, but never feels rushed. The author tells it in three parts, with each one denoting its act, giving each a beginning, a middle and ending that serve the wider story. At parts, particularly during the novel’s first half, the story feels a little episodic, but overall, the story flows well.
At the beginning of this review, I mentioned Odriel’s Heirs’ sequels. This is the first book in a series. The cover doesn’t mention this (nor do the sequels, though the novella titles tie back to this title), though it is mentioned in the Amazon listing. If you’re wary of starting a series, the book stands on its own and feels like a self-contained story. The epilogue teases what’s to come next, but you won’t be left feeling like you paid for part of a story.
Odriel’s Heirs is a beautifully written novel. While the writing might prove to be a little difficult for younger readers to parse, adult readers who enjoy young adult stories and coming of age tales will find a lot to love, and fantasy fans will discover a wonderful world. While some of the plot feels episodic, largely, the narrative flows together incredibly well. I’m excited to see where the rest of the series goes.
Kaia’s heart fell. She had expected more stamina from a legendary magus.
But with the dead still coming, she didn’t have the time to humor such disappointment. Her joints creaked as she turned away, stiff from the yanaa’s toll. She licked her salty lips and raised her leaden arms in front of her once again, muscles burning. She decimated another two lines before her legs jellied with exhaustion. The fire sapped strength from every muscle in her body. Everything hurt. Her back, her abdomen, neck, legs and arms all screamed at her to stop. Yet, she saw no end to the endless onslaught of dead.Odriel’s Heirs, Part Two: “The Evil of Man,” Chapter Seventeen: “Ariston’s Army”
Odriel’s Heirs was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Odriel’s Heirs is available in paperback, on Kindle, and on Audible, exclusive to Amazon).
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Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.Odriel’s Heirs