Summer has finally arrived and with it comes holidays lying on the beach with a good book or e-book. To start my summer get away early I escaped into the fictional world within The Birr Elixir, the first book in a series titled The Legend of The Gamesmen penned by Jo Sparkes.
First impressions are good, the prologue is strong and offers important detail for the rest of the novel rather than just being a large and unnecessary paragraph. Continuing onto the first chapter Sparkes sets a comfortable pace which is consistent throughout and an easy flow of events, revelations and character development. There appears to be some clumsiness in the sentence structure of this first chapter, but the further you read this is rectified and the writing becomes much stronger; subsequent chapters are much better.
As the plot thickens it becomes increasingly clear that there is much more to this novel than first appears- magic, adventure, action and a prince it’s got a bit of everything! On an aesthetic level I found the cover of this novel rather dark and foreboding- which made me think that the plot would be much darker than I found it to be.
Moving on, as the reader continues to read The Birr Elixir they will slowly get to grips with Sparkes’ characters. My favourite character name of course belongs to ‘Snark’, one of Sparkes’ villains, whose name I have taken to appreciate as a tribute to Lewis Carroll’s poem The Hunting of the Snark. In keeping with the style and pace of the novel, the development of key characters Marra and Drail is suitably consistent. Most interesting is how Sparkes patiently carves and depicts Marra’s life up until the present. Upon reaching the half-way point in the novel, a reader may find it difficult to determine whether or not Marra’s story so far is happy or sad. At this point, given the events thus far and the parts of her past which have already been revealed, I would say it is at a relatively happy medium- making her more relatable and believable in the minds of the reader, but she’s not so predictable as to run the risk of her becoming a boring and lesser character in subsequent titles.
Sparkes has successfully presented her readers with a well-balanced selection of characters with a variety of backgrounds and individual stories to tell. The focus on the sport featured in this book at first took me by surprise. Reminiscent of quidditch from the Harry Potter novels, rather than detracting from the novel it adds a further dimension to the characters and locations presented to the reader; and I have to say it is the most exciting sport I’ve read about in a piece of fiction since being introduced to quidditch. Sparkes also offers readers an intriguing and exotic setting for this fantasy novel. ‘The flats’ and desert lands are described in such a way that draws in the reader, as they are reminiscent of the lands of Ancient Egypt as seen in popular films like The Mummy and Indiana Jones.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this light-hearted fantasy. The writing is light and easy to read, the plot clear and easy to follow. I would definitely recommend to both young and old fantasy fans. I for one thoroughly look forward to reading the rest of books in The Legend of The Gamesmen series.
© Gemma Feltham 2nd August 2013