…during her time in the fortress she would have given anything to see a ray of sunshine, and now that she had it, she tried to avoid it.
Branwen’s Quest is the first book in Katelyn Buxton’s YA/Fantasy series Warriors of Aralan. Book 1 centers on how the warriors meet, become their country’s champions, and go on a dangerous quest to save the lives of their monarchs.
The novel begins with a heart-wrenching prologue that will serve to wound our main character deeply for at least the next 10 years of her life. When death touches one so young, the suffering is often irrational and prolonged. A fan of prologues in general, this one did not disappoint. It was a necessary window into Branwen’s soul that defines the very heart of her character.
10 years later, in Chapter One, our Branwen is a hardened young lady who is snappish and can be somewhat of a shrew. Now, knowing what we do about her, we forgive her this. Though it is no less irritating. Enough of that, there’s going to be a tournament!
This novel served its purpose well, as a set up and introduction to a much longer series, spanning years and many characters. Branwen main be the main character (the title character, at least) in the strictest sense of the word, but the characters of Silas and Quintin are scene thieves and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see them take on larger roles in the coming novels. Edyth, while less developed, shows potential as well.
The four champions of Aralan are sent on a deadly quest deep into the Northern Mountains to find the long ago stolen crowns of the King & Queen. If all this feels like a cross between Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings, that’s because it is. The mountain is booby-trapped up the wazoo, with taunting notes left hundreds of years ago by a wily, bloodthirsty thief. The young champions face many threats, most from without, some from within.
Branwen and Quintin were the best developed characters, making journeys through different traumas and coming out on the other side stronger. (side note: I ship it). Branwen herself reminded me of Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games). Not because she was an archer as well, but because of her terse, irascibility and the absolute inability to say the right thing at the right time. It’s an interesting course to take in a main character and, if done wrong, can turn off the reader complete. Similar to Katniss, Branwen’s antisocial behavior somehow becomes endearing and you find yourself rooting for her despite herself.
Buxton did an excellent job of keeping the suspense up once the characters entered the mountain fortress, I was biting my nails as I waited for the next trap to be sprung. I enjoyed watching the characters as they began to adjust to each other and eventually work together.
The ending felt a bit oversimplified, but as I stated earlier, this book is really just laying the groundwork for the world-development and characters to come. In some ways, it’s like the legend you read before the main story.
It’s an early work of the author’s and, as such, has some issues with pacing and development. We’ve all been there. However, what shines clear through is a beautiful imagination, a flare for plot, and a mind overflowing with characters. I have little doubt that the next books in the series will show drastic improvement, and with this one laying the groundwork, I’ll be well-prepared for those stories.
Also, the writing is simple enough, with zero language/sexuality and very minor violence–so I could recommend this highly to readers 11 and up.
Branwen’s Quest was a quick, fun read. I believe I have found an author to keep an eye on the process.
Want to know more about Katelyn Buxton? Head on over to her website.
Check out Goodreads to see what book is ‘On-Deck’ for my next Indie Book Tour Stop.