Carol Louise Standley’s novel is a secondary world adventure fantasy that follows a 16-year-old farm boy who leaves the safety of his home and embarks on a dangerous journey of self-discovery where he realizes that he is destined to unite two realms at war.
Gaylen has been told all his life not to enter the Candlewood Forest because it was inhabited by magical and nightmarish creatures. But after meeting a friendly wizard named Tugall at the forest’s edge, Gaylen is lured into the woods by strange lights. Once inside Candlewood, the boy is introduced to fantastical creatures like firesprites, dwarves, and fairies, and even meets and falls in love with Synestra, a girl who plays a crucial role in leading the realm.
Gaylen discovers that an evil wizardess named Murchesla Crona and her army of shape-shifting wolvern are set to invade Candlewood and destroy the realm. As all-out war looms closer, he is faced with revelations about his heritage that turn his world upside down.
The writing is strong and the narrative satisfies reader expectation for adventure fantasy. Unfortunately, the author brings little new to the table. Numerous fantasy stereotypes are embraced: a young farm boy who is a prophesized savior; a coming-of-age tale revolving around a child wizard (see Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea saga); fairies; elves; dragons, and a predictable conclusion, etc. This makes for a relatively formulaic read.
There are some intriguing elements, however, including a secondary character that’s a female dragon named Gidrath. After she meets a male dragon named Drakonia from the enemy’s realm, the examination into the two divergent dragon cultures is fascinating. Additionally, there are a few bombshell plot twists that will have fantasy fans applauding.
Admittedly, this is a formulaic story. But it’s also a fun and fast-paced fantasy adventure that many readers should enjoy.
Also available as an ebook.