The Jasper Forest, by Julia Gray

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Back of the Book: Exhiled from Vadanis, the homeland he risked his life to save, and betrayed by a brother he has never known, Terrel find himself adrift on the ocean, delirious with hunger and exhaustion.

It seems his fate is sealed. But, as the illusions clouding his mind momentarily clear, he at last spots land.

Rescued by fishermen, Terrel is nursed back to healthm his new home a world away from The Floating Islands of Vadanis. All he has for company are the local villagers, but he soon discovers that they have difficulties of their own.

Leaving behind his new-found friends, Terrel embarks on a remarkable quest to discover the truth, both about the world he lives in and his own life. For Terrel’s past holds the key to his destiny.

Thoughts: My first thought is that I wish they’d stop making the backs of these books sound so very cheesy.

My second thought is that its hard to describe epic fantasy adventures in many ways that don’t sound cheesy.

Either way, with this series of books, I find that often the description on the back cover doesn’t do the story justice. Despite sounding like the most unoriginal piece of clap-trap the world has ever seen, Julia Gray really does have a flair for pulling people into a story in such a way that you can read 100 pages and not even notice the passage of time.

The most difficult part of this book to get past was that it seemed, up to the later stages of the story, like Terrel was constantly getting trapped in inconsequential situations. He ends up in Fenduca… and it trapped there for a while, albeit partially because he had to recover his health. He gets to the clouded valley… and isn’t allowed to leave until he lifts a curse. He travels to meet the sharaken… and they hold him prisoner for a little while. And while all of these events were important, it did get a little tedious. I can’t say I was surprised when Terrel got to Talazoria and ended up in prison for a month.

Also, the section in the clouded valley was a part of this book I’m a bit iffy on. Prophecies about Terrel seem to be springing up left, right, and centre, and that’s somewhat to be expected in a world where moon-lore and dreams and prophecy are taken very seriously, but it seemed that the clouded valley bit could have been shorter. He had to stay there long enough to see the creatures in the darkness, sure, and an easy way to do that would be to have a prophecy about his arrival and a curse affecting the local women (due to the elemental in Talazoria, of course), but as interesting as it was to read, it felt like it was longer than necessary.

These are not books to go into if you’re big on action scenes. Like a lot of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, the Guardian Cycle spends most of the book building up to one big event at the end, which is big in scale but often short in pages. There’s a lot of talking, speculation, character interaction, but not much fighting or huge exciting events that make your heart pound.

That isn’t to say the book wasn’t well-written or enjoyable. A bit cheesy in times, but the story drew me in and I didn’t want it to let me go. I think I’ll always have a soft spot for this series, and although I’m more critical of it than when I first read it, that doesn’t mean I’m enjoying it any less.

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