What’s a better feeling than choosing to support an debut indie author in the early days of 2021? That was my thought going into The Blackstone Ritual, book one in Swearigen Durham’s Tales of the Bardenwood series. The book came out last autumn and I was very excited to get my hands on my copy.
The story follows Arden Ford, a small town prankster, as he starts going through strange changes that reveal he is a magical key known as a Thorn. When his small town is attacked by a band of murderous barbarians, Ard is pushed onto a quest that very much might get him killed. But that’s a risk he is willing to take to avenge those he cares about.
This book came out, as I said, towards the end of 2020, but there is something instantly nostalgic about not only the setting but the writing style as well. As a huge lover of vintage fantasy, especially unknown titles discovered in the basements of tiny used bookstores, The Blackstone Ritual would definitely be in good company. To continuing with this unhelpful review of hyperspecific associations, this book is honey-glazed chocolate chip pastries eaten in the French countryside, this book is the original Hobbit video game, this book is classically animated not-Disney film.
Durham’s writing style gives the impression of cross-level reading. The way The Hobbit can be found in the adult section of a bookstore as well as the middle-grade section. I would put his style in line with classic authors such as Tamora Pierce (specifically with the Song of the Lioness quartet) and Mercedes Lackey (specifically with the Elvenbane trilogy co-written with Andre Norton). He doesn’t dumb anything down for readers as I sometimes find with fantasy geared towards YA or MG levels, but also doesn’t bog down the reader with info-dumping like so many adult fantasy books. It’s an accessible read with goofy, kind characters and plenty of action.
If you’re looking for a bit of fun and an indie author to support, I definitely recommend checking this book out.