Almost in the blink of an eye, Knox’s safe, but sheltered life is destroyed. His father has been taken by the Council and is held in bondage, while Knox is forced to use his magic in order to destroy the last beast Prince of the kingdom. Knox, who can guide the thoughts of animals, is not even if sure if his magic will work against a Prince, but his father will be killed unless he manages the task. When he captured by the same beast he hunts, Knox realizes the Council is more corrupt than he ever imagined.
Cailean has spent most of his life planning for revenge. The Council slaughtered his people and in doing so stripped away magic from the land. Now those few Mac Tire, so called beasts by humans, who remain are wasting away. Taking back the kingdom is their only hope for survival. Cailean and Knox don’t think much of one another at first, but their fates are bound together. To save humanity and the Mac Tire, they will risk everything, including the fragile relationship they have begun to build.
Sons of the Countryside was an enjoyable read that was both fairy tale and fantasy at once. The plot moves fairly quickly and, despite its shorter length, the reader is given enough information to build a strong understanding of the world the author created. There are areas where I would have liked to know more, such as what life was like behind the magic wall surrounding the capital city and exactly how the Council was able to come to power. This would have provided a more complete picture, but the story doesn’t suffer greatly for its lack. The writing is strong and the author’s voice is suited to the fantasy genre. There are some pretty standard story ideas scattered throughout the book, but the author has managed to put a unique twist on them, which I really enjoyed. To say anymore would give them away, but sufficed to say I think the author has done well with this aspect.
Knox and Cailean are fascinating characters and complement one another well, though Knox and his history are revealed in far greater detail than Cailean’s. I would have preferred this be balanced out a bit more as I always felt there were things about Cailean that we were expected to accept rather than being developed through the narrative. Knox is young and brave despite his fears but he possesses a naïveté that is at times charming and at others maddening. He is slow to accept some rather obvious truths, but overall his character is likable and strong enough to carry the novel as a main focus. His magic is generally well explained save for one area. Rather suddenly, in addition to his connection to animals, he develops he the ability to control the elements. Because this power comes out of nowhere and is never fully explained, it feels like a pretty thin plot device. Had it been more fully explored it could have added another dimension to the story.
Cailean is not quite a caricature and there is enough of his personality to connect the reader, but he suffered from a lack of development. If Knox is the heart of the book, then Cailean is its soul, yet he is never given much depth. Had he been fleshed out as completely as Knox, their relationship would have been far more poignant than it actually was. This said, these characters do work well together and while I would have liked more of them, their relationship is believable and fits within the context of the story.
The first three-fourths of the book are strong and move quickly, but the last quarter feels a bit rushed. Given so much of the novel is building towards the resistance and eventual battle against the Council, it ends up being rather anticlimactic. We are given just a hint of resolution and I certainly hope this means a possible sequel. If not, Sons of the Countryside feels somewhat unfinished.
Overall I enjoyed Sons of the Countryside and I appreciated the author’s unique take on several classic ideas. The book has its issues, especially concerning Cailean’s character development, but these don’t fully distract from the overall plot. It’s a fast paced, intriguing book and one that I would recommend giving a chance.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.