Good day, people of Earth! I write to you from the center of the Earth- and boy is it hot. I won't bore you with the details on how difficult it is to transport a computer monitor to the planet's molten core (turns out glass screens love to melt) but perhaps I do have something a bit more entertaining. Yes, I'm afraid we don't have much time to chat, but that isn't much of a loss, as I am here to present our latest title: The Last Keeper by J.V. Hilliard!
Young Daemus Alaric is a Keeper, a group of people blessed with "the sight"- the ability to have prophetic visions. His life takes a sudden turn when he dreams of the evil Graytorris, a cursed former Keeper hellbent on spreading his reign of darkness- and now he wants Daemus. Aided by a band of warriors and rouges, Daemus and his uncle will race against time to reach the city of Castleshire, perhaps the last place on earth he will be safe.
Meanwhile, Addilyn Elspeth, princess of the illusive Vermillion elves, embarks on her own diplomatic journey to Castleshire, but gets more than what she bargained for when she witnesses a herd of unicorns known as tetrine- omens of misfortune and death. When the omen comes to fruition, Addilyn finds herself at the center of a plot held by those loyal to Graytorris to assassinate the entire royal family. While fleeing to Castleshire, her greatest protector will be Ritter Valkeneer, a battle-hardened trollborn warrior who finds himself strangely infatuated with the princess, despite knowing his mixed blood will always keep them apart.
As more and more warriors fall to the dark forces of Graytorris, Daemus, Addilyn, and Ritter will face unspeakable enemies on their voyage to Castleshire, but they will not be alone. With both magic and talented allies on their side, will they be able to reach their destination and stop the conquest of Graytorris before it's too late?
I must admit, I have been a bit close-minded when it comes to fantasy lately. What I needed was a re-entrance into this genre, and the opportunity presented itself with The Last Keeper.
The Last Keeper is one of those books that prizes itself on its expansive universe- ...and it sure does deliver. In an almost LOTR manner, the colorful cast of characters traverse across the kingdom's diverse landscape, from decrepit abandoned battlefields to dusty medieval towns. Each place they visit boasts a bit of lore, my favorite being Ghostwood, a forest known for once holding one of the bloodiest battles, now haunted by the cries of long-dead warriors that will drive you mad if you stay too long.
But I will say, it often becomes confusing with how many locations it boasts and where the characters are traveling, so I believe the book would benefit from a fantasy map at the beginning. The same could be said about the mass amount of characters, who all have different names. It can become a bit overwhelming to keep track of. However, I tend to say that a lot about books, so at some point or another, it may be my brain's fault.
One thing I super appreciate about The Last Keeper is the diversity of fantasy species there are. I find some authors fall on the ole'-tried-and-true when it comes to writing species for their books (Like fairies, dragons, gnomes, etc.), but Hilliard displays massive creativity with their creatures. Sure, you've got your imps and elves, but none are just the basic black-and-white. There are multiple elf species, like the aforementioned Vermillion elves, the mysterious Raven elves, and the bloodthirsty Bone elves. Besides that, there are completely new creatures like the tetrine, dark unicorns said to spread death wherever they go, and who could forget the Antlered Man, one of Graytorris' fallen prosecutors he magically transformed into a half stag, half man, 100% cursed minotaur-like thing that can wipe out and consume entire armies. How horrifying.
Besides that, something must be said about Daemus' character arc. He begins as a scared but protected student from a wealthy family who reacts severely to even the slightly distressing situation. ***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT*** When he is told he is to be expelled, (which is later revealed to be for his own safety) he falls to the floor and sobs uncontrollably. This beginning version of Daemus pales in comparison to him after his journey, who even executed the leader of Clan Blood Axe- the most fearsome clan in the land- with his own axe by himself. By the end of the book he goes from letting visions hit him like a freight train to being able to summon them himself. It is impressive to say the least and is a testimony to how well the author can portray these characters.
Many characters are introduced and then suddenly disappear after their scene is
over, but those who do stick around we get to know like friends, and it is very distressing when they die. The battle scenes in The Last Keeper and intense and immersive, but the death scenes pass faster than peregrine falcons. I only wish they hadn't have died and been moved on from so suddenly.
My final statement of The Last Keeper is: the book has the excitement and quality of a long-running series contained in one solid issue. It is a series, and it is open ended, so the complete resolution is yet to come, but this one book is just enough to wet your palate. There are plenty of characters for you to choose to be your favorite, and it is satisfying to see their storylines meet.
If you are looking for a great introduction into YA fantasy, look no further. Go check out The Last Keeper !