The Black Elf of Seaward Isle by Joni Parker is an eclectic piece of fantasy fiction. The first chapter of any novel is important for scene setting, back-story and first impressions to carry you through the rest of the book. The Black Elf of Seaward Isle immediately launches the characters of the novel but is limited in its time and location settings. We arrive on Seaward Isle during an unknown time, later discovered in the novel, but there was some lacking detail in the depiction of the main character’s (Alexin) first journey. The next few chapters offer slow progress regarding character development, but Parker is still able to retain the reader’s interest and keep them engaged enough to continue reading.
The odd time structure and lack of fixed location is interesting but I often felt as though I was reading Alex’s diary- it was a little ‘and then this happened, and then that happened’, largely due to its relatively simple sentence structure. The essentials are always substantially detailed without complexity or wayward tangents. It would definitely be suitable for a young adult reader but many of the other topics including death make it suitable for a wider audience. However “Ham” is a terrible nickname for anyone, even if your name is Hamlin. By the end of the battle in Chapter 2, you’ve started to get a much clearer insight into Alex’s nature. Here the character development really begins. Many of the place names and character names are perfectly fitting and well chosen for the setting of the novel, which appears to lie within the realm of medieval magic. However other names occasionally resonate as too modern and therefore are a little out of place for this kind of setting. But that is more a matter of the individual’s opinion.
The most interesting part about this novel for me, is the big mix of influences. The reader is treated to a truly eclectic mix of magic, elves, dwarves, Amazonians, titans, pirates and humans. This mix is unusual for me to obtain from one book, and I enjoyed it to the point where I often wished Parker had offered more detailed and longer descriptions. Alex’s history and heritage is slowly but consistently revealed through the novel. By chapter 4 the reader is all the more intrigued and wants to know more about her descendants and their story. There are also many good sub-plots which really keep the main narrative alive and full of intrigue- in particular the mystery of the Elvin Lord Odin.
One outstanding thing about Parker’s novel is that she always keeps you guessing. The story is so unpredictable and the style widely unknown to me that is it all the more engaging to read. My favourite scene, the Presenting Ceremony is in chapter 5. This scene really highlights Parker’s ability to convey emotion as well as action. Her talent shines as her depiction of Alex’s emotion in this scene brought a lump to my throat. At this point the reader is invested in what happens to Alex, a connection has been forged between reader, character and author.
By the time you reach the end of novel, the reader will be confident in the links between the varying characters and the roles they play in the telling of The Black Elf of Seaward Isle. The novel reads consistently if a little simple and would benefit with some added depth and refinement for future installments.
Overall the novel reads well, it is an engaging , interesting, light and enjoyable read. Although it may seem a little bare in places, by the time you’ve finished reading it, you realise you’ve got a concrete story, with some real gems as sub-plots. There isn’t room for the reader to get lost, wander off topic or get bored- the action just keeps on coming!
© Gemma Feltham April 27 2013