Thursday, April 12, 2018

Book Review: 'Be Careful What You Joust For' by Ryan Hauge

Ryan Hauge is the author of the highly anticipated Pentavia fantasy series. Drawing inspiration from his toy business and the countless computer games he grew up playing, he weaves tales of mystery and intrigue. When he’s not writing, you can bet that he’s distracting his wife from her work, handling a toy emergency, or whipping up something delicious in the kitchen. He lives in Wilmington, Delaware with his wife, Ivy Smoak. They do everything together, including writing the Pentavia Series.

Ryan and Ivy open their book with a series of maps of the make believe land of Pentavia – a fine gesture that puts us in touch with the strange names and connects them to places. And setting the character of the tone of the book is evident in the telling opening paragraphs – ‘Isolda's father once told her that any respectable tournament would feature at least three deaths. Such events were dangerous affairs. A lance could catch a knight in just the wrong spot and find its way through his armor, or a man might take a moment too long to yield in the hand to hand combat. The competitors weren't the only ones in danger, though. Brawls in the stands could often turn deadly. And sometimes people gambled more than they can afford, forcing the debt collectors to take their payment in flesh rather than coin. Isolda knew that the upcoming tournament would be no exception to the rule of three deaths. It was to be the biggest tournament Treland had ever seen. Bigger arena, more knights, more spectators, and definitely higher stakes. There were even whispers that this tournament was the one foretold in the Prophecy of Arwin. Surely there would be at least three deaths. But who? The first death, Isolda knew, would belong to her youngest son, Terric. He wasn't going to take a lance through the heart or partake in illegal gambling... at least, she hoped he hadn't gotten into such things. No, his death was of a different variety. He was to take the Oath of Arwin on the final day of the tournament, and with that oath, his dreams of becoming a knight would be snuffed out. The second death would belong to Isolda's eldest daughter, Oriana. She was of marrying age, and with so many young lords and knights coming to town, it was inevitable that a betrothal would be arranged. Whether it would be to Prince Rixin or some other noble, Isolda was not sure, but either way, the second death would be that of her daughter's childhood. The third death... Isolda didn't know what the third death would be. She hoped it wouldn't happen at all, but if it had to, she prayed it wouldn't belong to her eldest son, Marcus. His wouldn't be the death of a childhood dream or the death of his youth. He was competing in the tournament, so if the third death belonged to him, surely it would be death in the simplest sense of the word: the end of his life.’

The complex plot is made clear in the couple’s synopsis – ‘‘The fiercest knights in the realm are coming together to compete in the Joust for Arwin's Lance, a tournament that will divide even the closest alliances. The winner alone will have the power to start or prevent a war from unfolding across the peaceful lands of Pentavia. House Hornbolt, a prominent family that desires peace above all else, is hosting the tournament. The Hornbolt’s have always been strict followers of tradition. The first born son wears the armor of a knight. The second takes the priestly Oath of Arwin. And the daughters get married off to the most eligible suitors. The eldest son is the favorite to win the tournament. But the rest of the Hornbolts aren't as eager to follow the paths laid out for them. What if the second born wants to be a knight too? And what if the eldest daughter just gave her heart to a common thief? Customs are meant to be broken. But that’s not all that threatens to shatter House Hornbolt, not when a secret deeper than the late king's grave is unearthed right before the joust. The fate of Pentavia hangs in the balance as war becomes imminent. And the scales are about to tip. One wrong move and everything could fall to pieces.’

Jolly good writing in a novel that provides escapism and entertainment in the grand style. This is a fine writing team! Grady Harp, April 17
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.