I settled into The Ember Child right off the bat and wanted to continue reading much later than I should each night. This is the kind of story that is immediately familiar to epic fantasy fans, but definitely fresh and different enough, with loads of imagination and inventive world-building, to keep you hooked. A baby boy is born on the eve of an invasion of the great kingdom of Danara, a martial society that's a cross between Sparta and Camelot. He is named Halasan, and deemed the child of prophecy called The Ember Child, destined to free the kingdom from brutal tyranny of the expanding Empire. The baby is spirited away by the king's champion, a grizzled warrior who trains and raises him in a secluded and faraway land. At only sixteen, perhaps not quite ready but willing, he's called to fulfill his destiny.
This is an extremely well written and plotted story, with plenty of action and adventure, written by someone who obviously loves the genre and cares about both story and craft. I enjoyed the hell out of it, grinning at the relationships between the characters and the sheer damn fun of it all. The world is steeped in well-conceived myth and legend of the author's own design. There are gods, out there, somewhere, who sometimes come to visit, ghosts who whisper in the ears of kings, witches who can read dreams and see the future, and there's at least one immortal among us, but don't expect dragon's spitting fire and wizards flinging spells. It's not that kind of fantasy. At least not in this first book of the series. And that's just damned okay by me. It's also quite clean in terms of language and gratuitous violence. There's a ton of action and swordplay galore, resulting in broken bones, severed limbs and even the spilling of guts, but never is it dwelled upon in detail. I wouldn't call it noble bright, but it's definitely not grimdark either. That said, I think fans of either of those and epic fantasy in general will find plenty to love in this story.
Speaking of the series, it looks like the second book isn't out yet--and I really wish it was. Looking at Goodreads and Amazon after reading (I never do that before reading these competition entries), The Ember Child has been out since June of 2017, and yet it has just three ratings on Goodreads (all five stars) and none on Amazon. Which means, most likely, no one is reading it. That is a damned shame. I would humbly recommend the author give it a new cover (something with one of those amazing statues of the gods, so impressive and well described, with a ship at sea or meeting of kings beneath, perhaps--he knows which ones I mean :), put a bio on Amazon and Goodreads, whip up a website, dive into Facebook and Twitter, and flog it as much as possible.
This is a great book that deserves a ton of readers, but we have to get their attention first. I think that once more folks start reading and reviewing it, it will catch like wildfire. So, all y'all reading this review, go snag you a copy and tuck in. Let's get that ember glowing.