Title: The Crystal Ordeal (Legends of Leone #1)
Author: M. G. Dekle
At a very young age, Leone Verrat learned that her ability to cast simple magical spells was limited by a very peculiar handicap. Even though she earned barely passable grades, an unknown benefactor still saw fit to recommend her for Morgan’s Ordeal, a test necessary for any respectable career. She is soon inextricably linked to her theatrical Ordeal partner, Falchion, as they must brave the dangers of the test together. They both quickly discover that the Ordeal is the least of their concerns as they find themselves in the middle of an ancient power struggle.
I don’t read much high fantasy, but mainly because I’m not a big fan of traditional high fantasy plots and it’s hard to find a good original twist. The cover wasn’t the greatest, but the Morgan’s Ordeal thing sounded pretty unique, so I figured I might as well try it.
Leone was enjoyable. She tended to be a follower more than a leader, but she could hold her own in an argument or (mostly) in a fight. Between her faint geekiness, her almost completely boring past, and her rather unique magic usage, she would have been a great character…if she wasn’t overshadowed by the awesomeness of Falchion.
Falchion was the reason I enjoyed this book so much. He was adventurous and outgoing and offbeat and quirky and crazy, but he was hilarious. Some people do trust falls – Falchion does trust leaps. Off two-story buildings. Into giant walls. He was downright insane, but in such an endearing way.
I couldn’t read The Crystal Ordeal after ten at night, because Falchion would make me laugh so hard I’d wake up the rest of my family.
As for the traditional high fantasy plot – I didn’t have to worry. Once the strange and fascinating Morgan’s Ordeal part is over (it doesn’t take up nearly as much of the book as I was suspecting), it moves in to more strange and super fun plots, like escaping walled cities and running from guards and trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Because something really weird is going on, and it leads to all sorts of fun and excitement and danger.
High fantasy magic systems are almost always complicated. This does such-and-such in this case, but that over here, and this there, and if the opponent does/says/has this…you get the picture. That’s not a bad thing. But the Legends of Leone magic system was refreshingly simple: objects can be used to cast spells, using the object’s properties (a spiderweb can make a sticky spell or a rope spell or a net spell or whatever else the magician can think of that has to do with spiderwebs). It took me about a chapter to get it, then I just enjoyed watching Leone do fun magic stuff.
When I first pulled up the book on my ereader, I hoped I wouldn’t end up wading through 200+ pages of substandard writing. By page 75, I didn’t want this book to end. I wanted more of the story, and especially more of Falchion.
Leone was fun. Falchion was epic. I enjoyed the original take on high fantasy. And I sure as heck can’t wait to get my hands on book two!
I received a free review copy of The Crystal Ordeal from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.