I read fantasy. Fantasy makes me happy. And there are a few authors who I will always pick up their books. H.L. Burke, author of SPICE BRINGER, is one of those.
I’m in Ms. Burke’s “fan” group on Facebook. I’ve been hearing about this book since it was an idea that was keeping her from focusing on another project. So…for awhile now.
I voted on character names. Each of the tidbits she shared as she wrote it piqued my curiosity. My opinion was cast when she asked for input about the blurb.
But it was at that point I told myself, “This is going to be a sad book. I don’t think I’ll read it.”
And that’s why I signed up for an advance copy.
Wait! What? It doesn’t make sense to you that I’d volunteer to read and review a book I’d decided I wasn’t going to read?
It was a book by H. L. Burke. I wanted to read it (even thought I didn’t want to read it). So I convinced myself that the best thing to do was get a free copy, and that way if it was too sad for words, I wouldn’t have spend money on it.
Makes perfect sense, right? *holds up hand*
This is a tale of three people on individual quests. Their goals bring them together.
Niya has known she’s living on borrowed time for her entire life. She dreams of seeing the sea and riding an elephant, but she’s happy to spend her days in the grove caring for the spice that keeps her alive.
Unfortunately, the princess of the realm believes she needs the fire salamander that helps the vitrisar seeds to germinate and grow in order to ascend her adoptive father’s throne. When her eagerness to snatch the beast sets the grove on fire, Niya must take the remaining plant and Alk, the fire salamander, to a safe place.
Early in this journey, Niya runs into people who want to steal the spice she’s carrying. It’s rare and valuable. Jayesh, a monk on his own quest, saves her from robbers and joins her. He’s searching for redemption. His lack of faith in his god cost people their lives, and now he’s trying to atone for that. Helping Niya fits into his plans.
They travel. They meet people. Their beliefs are tested. Eventually, they face the princess. Can they convince her that their quest will benefit the empire than hers?
Once I started this book, I didn’t want to put it down.
But I did. Because I also didn’t want it to end.
I hate books like that. I mean because I LOVE them, so why can’t they go on forever?
These three characters are realistic and relatable. You want to despise the princess because of the heartache she causes for Niya, but since Burke gives you scenes from the princess’s point of view, you know what’s motivating her. And it’s a reasonable and justifiable motivation.
Even if she’s being manipulated.
Niya’s death sentence makes her live every moment to the full. But it also makes her leery of emotional attachments. After all, she’s going to die, and whoever loves her will be brokenhearted.
Jayesh has his own baggage. His tendency to over-think every decision and wait to act puts him in conflict with Niya’s immediacy. Since he rescues her at their first meeting, we cheer him on to the end. He’s a good guy and he deserves to find the redemption he seeks.
There is a not-so-obvious allegory in this story. The three gods that act together could represent the Trinity. Each of the gods have an attribute that is also one of God’s characteristics: Kind, Just and All-Knowing. The battle between good and evil is clear.
The magical elements are neatly interwoven into the setting and characters. It was easy to believe each one. Burke does a great job of explaining what could be unbelievable in a way that doesn’t rob it of it’s mysticism (The Force was way more interesting before it was explained).
I laughed at the character dialog and interaction. I cried at the heartaches and losses. And I predicted who would make the first and greatest sacrifice.
If you read young adult fantasy, this book is for you. If you like quest stories, this is a story you don’t want to miss.
You like snarky heroines? Me too! You’ll get that and an even MORE sarcastic fire salamander. The bi-play between the two will make you laugh.
Maybe you think stories should have a deeper message, not be solely for entertainment. Well then, why are you still reading this? Go get this book. Download it today and see if you aren’t moved by the themes underlying the adventure.
Yes, there’s romance in this story. It’s not sappy. And it’s not typical.
In fact, the only people who might not enjoy this story are people who despise fantasy, especially if it has a hint of allegory. Otherwise, this is a five star read guaranteed to take you from hilarity to suspense to tears and back again.
SPICE BRINGER is the perfect spice for the final weekend of summer (and any other time of year).