Beginning of a Hero (Legends of Windemere Book 1) is a fantasy I stumbled on over at the amazon kindle store. While I was somewhat familiar with the indie author, Charles E. Yallowitz, (having enjoyed his personal blog for a few months) I’m ashamed to admit that I never found time to actually try any of his novels. Well, thankfully, I finally made some time, and I’m glad that I did, because this is a great beginning to a promising YA fantasy series.
The center of all the heroic exploits is Luke Callindor: a young forest tracker, who comes from a long line of honored warriors. On his own since his seventeenth year (by personal choice), Luke has been traveling the lands with his faithful dog and companion, Stiletto, trying to make a name for himself by being a hero for hire. But times are hard for a new face in the business: no great monsters to vanquish or heroines to save. Nope, mostly he has been relegated to doing small things for rural folk, which is fine but doesn’t really help Luke gain experience as a great adventurer. But things are about to change!
While musing on his unluckiness, our young Luke stumbles upon a messenger of Duke Solomon. The messenger is frantic, having been entrusted by his liege lord with a grave mission: procure a protector for the heir to the throne. Unfortunately, an undead lord and his minions have learned of this undertaking and have doggedly pursued the messenger, killing all his protectors as well as the paladin initially picked to protect the heir. But since Providence has supplied Luke Callindor at just this moment, the messenger sees it as divine intervention (not to mention an easy way out of this for him) and hands over the commission to this untried hero.
Finally, a quest worthy of a true hero! Only one problem. Luke has no idea who the heir is, just where he or she is: Hamilton Military Academy.
Thereafter, Luke travels to the academy, exaggerates his credentials and skills, and bluffs his way into the school as a new student. He doesn’t have anything to learn though. At least in his opinion – though Luke is far too courteous to say such out loud. No, he is a seasoned adventurer, well versed in the real world business of hero-ing. At least, he thinks he is until his teachers and fellow students reveal his deficiencies. Thereafter, Luke finds himself learning lots of lessons, making several friends and enemies and desperately trying to uncover the identity of the hidden heir and protect him or her from a lich lord determined to destroy the whole kingdom!
Being a fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels, those are the YA books that Beginning of a Hero reminded me of: A fantasy version of Percy set in a fully realized medieval world populated by heroes and villains, fairies and pixies, elves and gnomes, demons and liches, and even gods and goddesses. The plot is naturally a coming-of-age tale, but it is well conceived, has an underlying plot of sinister proportions, and had the added twist of Luke already being a hero, just wanting to hone his skills and create a famous name for himself. Since this is a YA, there is definitely humor: from Luke always saying "That was unexpected" when something horrible happened to the goofy but courageous antics of the drite, Fizzle. Add to this a few older characters to impart wisdom to the youngsters and a few strong females to create tension and Mr. Yallowitz has included all the necessary elements of a successful YA novel. But the most refreshing thing about the book was that its teenage characters acted realistic for their age and experience rather than overpowered grimdark caricatures – which is something I do not take for granted anymore.
Now, I know some of you are thinking: "That is all great, but indie fantasy novels usually aren’t of the best quality." Okay, sure, there are a few grammatical errors in the novel, but nothing you can’t easily find in this very review. And, yes, the story does drag at a few points, which might or might not have been rectified by even more editing than the author already had done. But none of these things overshadow that Beginning of a Hero is a really engaging YA story that has spawned three sequels with a fifth book to be released very shortly.
So if you love YA fantasy, I recommend you give this one a try and see if Luke Callindor and his hero-ing are to your taste.