Knights of the Alliance: An Original Epic Fantasy Adventure
(Alliance, Book 1)
Canari Publishing (2021)
Reviewed by Lee Barckmann for Reader Views Kids (01/2022)
“Knights of the Alliance” is the first novel of a planned YA fantasy trilogy. Author Stefanie Chu has laid the foundation for a world that has some similarities (as well as significant differences) to “Lord of the Rings” or “A Game of Thrones.”
The novel opens with a map of the various kingdoms and principalities on an imaginary continent, annotated with Gothic-looking calligraphy, the surrounding seas, the harbors, mountains, and forests. There are many characters, and some information about them can be gleaned from the lists associated with the map. Within the pages, we learn the backgrounds of the main actors in piecemeal fashion—their names, origins, “powers,” and sometimes their relationships to other characters. There is also a list of what we call “technologies” in the appendix. These technologies are mostly based on crystals which focus energy that can be controlled with various minerals and gems. There are devastating weapons as well as devices worn on the wrist that are used for worldwide communication. The author also invents a host of slang words, various foods, many religions, and powerful medical techniques, all of which are introduced into the story as they occur. Suffice to say, it is a world fully imagined.
The prologue thrusts the reader directly into a desperate battle fought with spears, swords, axes, and crystal energy weapons that ends in a huge slaughter. It is told from the perspective of “The Valiant Tiger”—the leader defending the establishment against a rebel army. We will learn this is Fangbane. In the prologue, he is directing his army, crushing the rebellion of another famous hero named Gaven. Fangbane’s own champion is a young woman named Mirari. Fangbane introduces her to readers by stating: “I didn’t know precisely what powers or abilities she possessed. But whatever force she had inside her, I could perceive it would be terrible to behold…”
Fangbane describes with lavish self-praise his fearless valor, and the terror that he, himself, evokes upon his enemies on the battlefield. He mixes this opening narration with a self-aware inner dialog that hints at his own great struggle and his own suffering that brought him to this point. In the end, his champion, Mirari, overcomes Gaven, the Rebel leader—a man who will become her close confidant and partner. Neither Mirari nor Gaven have any memory of the epic, legendary battle they just fought, but Gaven is horrified by the pain and suffering his actions caused and is willing to accept execution for it when he discovers what happened. When he is saved from death by Mirari and Fangbane, the three heroes gather other fearsome fighters together and form the Alliance.
The Middle Ages is the backdrop for many fantasy YA stories. As it is in “The Song of Roland”’ or “Beowulf,” the heroes are fearless and true, the villains and monsters are monumentally terrible and seemingly invincible. Some of the secondary characters are teens who provide comic relief or romantic sparks. The prose is over the top, like a Medieval herald praising a great personage, or breathlessly describing a battle, or a Worldwide Wrestling announcer revving up the crowd as a feared challenger enters the ring. The main tale consists of battles (or travelling to battles), along with personal combats, even among allies, who constantly train and prove themselves to one another. There are many oaths thrown about as well; the best of which I personally think is: “…by the sweaty balls of Engelburt the untutored…”
I misspent my youth as a science fiction fan, and re-read “Lord of the Rings” more than once, so I can cast myself into the mindset of a young reader. I liked the book; it is a strong story, solid, sustaining, and there are enough surprises in both plot and character to keep any reader engrossed. The fact that it will be a trilogy promises we will learn more about the characters and this fascinating fantasy world. The author gives the reader a well-paced, 400-page tale, which is both well-written and professionally edited. Ms. Chu is a good writer, and I hope she grows into a great one, by giving more believable humanity to her characters as she allows the next two volumes of her trilogy to unfold.