Damea has been facing a crisis of dwindling resources for years. Magic, once bountiful, powered everything on the planet from its cities to its farm equipment. Enchanters were the cornerstone of Damean society, manipulating magic to improve every facet of its citizen’s lives. With the magic all but gone, Enchanters are now not only ostracised and strictly controlled, but they are also blamed for the loss of magic and the declining state of civilisation.
Andrea lives and works on her parent’s farm. She toils in the fields daily, struggling to maintain their crops without mechanical help. She is also an enchanter much to her parent’s dismay. Subscribing to the popular belief that Enchanters are to blame for society’s woes, her parents allow her to train just enough to control her abilities and prevent her from accidentally unleashing magical mayhem. Unfulfilled with the tedium of farm life, Andrea dreams of someday, somehow, being the hero that returns the magic to Damea.
The opportunity to chase this dream arrives when a stranger approaches her in town. Meredith is an Enchanter conducting research in the far off Black Forest and offers Andrea a job as her assistant. Against her parents’ will, Andrea accepts the job offer. Meredith’s husband is in a catatonic state and the research they undertake is to try and cure him from his ailment.
After several failed attempts, they try one last ditch effort to revive him. However, instead of curing him, the experiment summons a mysterious girl from an unknown land. Realising that this girl, Cassie possesses exceptional qualities, Meredith desperately breaks a cardinal rule of magic in another attempt to revive her husband.
Finally reaching the end of her patience with Meredith’s obsession and transgressions, Andrea helps Cassie escape and they embark on an epic journey. Throughout the course of their journey Andrea and Cassie meet several interesting characters that join them on their quest to find the missing magic, and to return Cassie home.
Andrea is not a typically confident heroine. She is a tad gawky and quite socially awkward, especially when it comes to interacting with Cassie. She has difficulty expressing her deepening feelings to Cassie which causes added angst in an already stressed relationship. Andrea is also naïve, rash and emotional on different occasions throughout the story. Her character really resonates with my memories of my awkward teenage self, making her a very relatable heroine.
We aren’t exactly sure where Cassie is from, although one can deduce from her description that she is from Earth around our present time. She is magically transported against her will to the world of Damea via Andrea and Meredith’s experiment. Cassie tries to make the best of a bad situation by agreeing to help Andrea with her quest in return for Andrea’s assistance in returning her home. Cassie is quick witted and able to be both charming and scathing with equal skill. She is hearty and a survivor and, while it takes time before she begins to fully trust her companions she acts honourably and with a certain amount of bravado.
Andrea and Cassie meet a large cast of distinct and memorable characters throughout their journey, many of whom become part of the quest.
Kye is another young Enchanter the girls meet in Azgadaran. He is a wanted fugitive after causing an unfortunate magical accident resulting in massive destruction. He is honourable, sweet and brave and adds an innocent and pure perspective to the group.
Elisa is an ex-Legionnaire from Azgadaran, exiled for refusing to execute her father for misuse of magic. She acts as a sort of mother figure for the group and is brave, noble and just a little grumpy. Ok, maybe more than a little.
Finally, there are the Guardians Diana and Jacob who also become integral members of the group.
Overall, it is a heartwarming story about how a handful of society’s misfits grow to become a family as their journey progresses. And of course, there is Meredith, perhaps my favourite character in the story. She represents the villain but is far from completely evil. She is a tragic, morally ambiguous, character whose sole purpose in life is trying to revive her husband. While some of her tactics are questionable, she commands a certain amount of pity from the reader and her motivations are understandable.
The Writing Style
The romance between Andrea and Cassie is a real slow burn which, given the circumstances in which they meet and their opposite personalities, is entirely believable. It is also depicted in an age appropriate manner for younger readers. I enjoyed the fact that their romance isn’t the key focus of the story, but rather a subplot to the main adventure. This provides the pleasure of watching their relationship develop slowly as the narrative progresses, but allows you to maintain your focus on the end goal; the completion of the quest.
Even though this is a lengthy book, Bradshaw manages to maintain a steady pace throughout. There is quite a lot of information and plot to squeeze into the story and Bradshaw achieves this without many instances of it seeming slow.
The world building is very well done. There are several different kingdoms and landscapes our group of adventurers encounter throughout the tale. Bradshaw paints a vivid and intricate image of Damea and it is easy to become immersed in the different realms, cultures and political climates of the planet.
Additionally, Bradshaw has created a wonderfully interactive website based on Enchanters that contains character and regional information, a map of the planet, a blog and a discussion board. The site is a great bonus for readers who wish to further explore the world.
I am a sucker for a great fantasy quest narrative and this book delivers. The plot progresses steadily from one crisis to the next. From royal thievery, civil war, war between kingdoms and hazardous mountain journeys, this book keeps you on the edge of your seat. However, the thing I most enjoy about this book is how it represents and normalises a queer relationship in a fantasy quest novel. Andrea and Cassie represent just one of several relationships in the story and is not different than the others which I feel is very much needed representation for young people to see.
The biggest con I would say is the predictable trajectory of the storyline. There isn’t a lot of twists or unexpected turns. I also feel that the resolution was somewhat lacklustre.
Although the story line is slightly predictable, there is so much action that you are never bored. There is always something happening, propelling the story forward and the characters are real and endearing. If you are looking for a satisfying YA fantasy quest full of adventure, then you need to pick up this book.
Excerpt from Enchanters by KF Bradshaw
Andrea shook her head in confusion. Where was this girl from that she wore such strange clothing and had never heard of the largest nations in Damea? Perhaps she’s from a really isolated village? Or another land entirely? Somewhere far from Damea.
“Azgadar is fine,” she decided. Her heart was still racing and she found herself thinking back to the projection she had seen. She could hardly believe she had actually left Meredith and was admittedly terrified of what her mentor’s reaction would be when she discovered both girls were gone.
“Why did you help me?” Cassie’s question broke through Andrea’s thoughts.
“You helped me escape, even after I tried to hurt you. That was your home, right? Why’d you drop everything and leave to help someone you just met?”
“Oh,” Andrea said and rubbed the back of her neck nervously. “I guess it’s because I do not approve of Meredith’s methods. I want to use magic to help people.”
“Yeah, seemed like all she cared about was helping that dead guy.” Cassie still felt the painful reminders of her time with Meredith. Her head still hurt and her body still ached. Her face also felt oddly swollen in some parts and she wondered if she had bruises on it.
“Oh. Richard,” Andria said and nodded. “He’s not dead. But Meredith’s been trying to wake him up for the last twenty years. When I met her, she really did convince me that she cared about Damea and bringing back magic. I think…no, I know she’s become more desperate in recent years.” She sighed. “But to answer your question, what Meredith did to you was unethical and inexcusable. Also,” she chose her next words carefully, “it seems to me that you’re an innocent in all this.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9780998751825
- Publisher: Wishbox Press
KF Bradshaw Online
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