#WyrdAndWonder Fantasy 5 Tuesday: Mentors
Back in November I ran a series of posts called “Sci-5 Tuesdays” to celebrate Sci-Fi Month, so for Wyrd & Wonder, I thought it would be fun to do something similar to highlight some of the fantasy tropes and themes that I find simply irresistible! In the last few years, I’ve also been fortunate to read some wonderful new books in the genre, so to give them some extra attention, for each Tuesday’s topic I will also be featuring five titles that I recently enjoyed.
To kick off our first week, today we will be looking at MENTORS in fantasy fiction. Where would Bilbo Baggins be without Gandalf, or Harry Potter without Dumbledore? All heroes need a good teacher to guide them and lead them down the right path, and the following are some great books that feature some of my favorite mentor/apprentice relationships.
Race the Sands was one of my favorite reads of 2020. There’s literally nothing I disliked about this book, a spectacular effusion of excitement, action, adventure, and yes, an excellent mentor and student bond! In the world of Becar, where reincarnation exists, good souls are reborn as humans while evildoers come back forever trapped as monstrous kehoks. Their only chance at breaking this cycle is to win one of the kehok races that all of Becar flock to see each year. Gutsy individuals who are bold enough to impose their wills on these beasts can also compete as kehok riders, earning fame and fortune if they win. Tamra Verlas used to be one these champions, and now she makes her living by training new riders. However, an unfortunate incident last season has all but ruined her reputation, forcing her to scout her own rider and kehok to enter in the races. She ends up finding both at the market—a freshly captured lion-like kehok, as well as Raia, a young runaway from an abusive home. Raia has never ridden a kehok before, but she is desperate for a job, and Tamra is also desperate for a new student. Obviously, racing motifs feature prominently in this book, but there is also the theme of the disgraced trainer who needs to make a champion out of an inexperienced rookie, and there are also a few added twists so that this story will contain plenty of surprises. (Read the full review…)
Age of Assassins is only the first book of The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, but really the entire series is a great example of a heartwarming master and apprentice relationship. “To catch an assassin, use an assassin…” This is the situation Queen Adran has found herself in when she discovers a plot against her son. Opting to handle the matter quietly, she turns to her old friend, killer-for-hire Merela Karn, tasking her to root out the would-be assassin. Enter our protagonist Girton Clubfoot, who is Merela’s young apprentice. Pretending to be a squire while his master dons the guise of a traveling jester, Girton is put through combat training with the other castle boys to maintain the deception. Hiding behind a mask of clumsiness and ineptitude, he secretly begins gathering information that would help them discover who might want the prince dead. Without a doubt though, the highlight of this novel for me was the bond between Girton and Merela. Merela is almost as much a mother to Girton as she is his teacher, encouraging him to see past the disability for which he is named in order to reach his full potential. It’s really quite rare to come across a master-apprentice relationship that feels so genuine and developed. (Read the full review…)
In Spellslinger, we’re introduced to Kellen, a young mage-in-training. Problem is though, he’s not exactly mage material. With his sixteenth birthday looming on the horizon, the time for him to take is trials is quickly approaching, but he still doesn’t have much control over his magic. In fact, his ability seems to be diminishing by the day, and that’s a big problem. If he can’t pass his trials, he’ll be relegated to the serving class, looked down upon by the rest of the mage society and bringing shame to his family. For Kellen, it’s an unthinkable fate, and he’s willing to do anything to avoid it, even if it means putting his own life on the line. But then enter Ferius Parfax, a visitor from out-of-town whom everyone thinks is a spy trying to steal secrets to take back to her masters. However, there’s more to the outsider than meets the eye, especially when she helps Kellen see things from a new perspective, forcing him to re-evaluate everything he thought he knew about his world and his place in it. With her experience and worldliness, she offers Kellen possibilities he’s never dreamed of. I confess, few YA series openers these days are actually compelling enough to make me want to keep reading. Spellslinger, however, made me want to grab up the next book as soon as I was finished! (Read the full review…)
I loved this so much! I’m a big fan of R.S. Belcher, and The Queen’s Road introduces a whole new world full of wild surprises. At the center of it all is Ray, a young man who has been down on his luck but is still trying his best to keep his life running. Unfortunately, Ray also owes a lot of money to some very dangerous people, and they’ve threated to kill his mother unless he pays it all back. So when a dying stranger comes out of nowhere one night, bequeathing to Ray his vintage Ford Galaxie and a mysterious jeweled ring, our baffled protagonist couldn’t believe his luck. His mom would be saved, and he even has a sweet ride now to make some money street racing. But of course, as Ray will soon find out, some gifts come with strings attached—forever, in this case. It turns out that the dying man was one of the Queen of the Universe’s Rangers, a guardian who travels the network of hyper-space highways that connect all the planets and galaxies in creation, protecting its laws and its people. They are identified by the rings they wear, the very same one given to Ray which will now stay on his finger until the day he dies. Like it or not, Ray is a Ranger now, and he’s got a lot to learn. Luckily, he soon meets Chain, an experienced Ranger who ends up being the young man’s mentor, guiding him through a system of infinite possibilities. (Read the full review…)
Nevernight is so titled because it introduces us to a world where its three suns almost never set. Our main character is Mia Corvere, a young woman whose father was a military leader who led a failed rebellion and was consequently executed. Mia was seized along with her mother and little brother, but she managed to escape, surviving alone for the next few years in the cold, merciless shadows of the city. Well, not entirely alone. She is always accompanied by a shadowy presence, a cat-shaped familiar she has come to call Mister Kindly. As well, Mia has the help of her mentor, a shady man named Mercurio. A former assassin, he took Mia in after she was orphaned, teaching her all he knew. Driven by the desire for vengeance on her father’s enemies, Mia ends up following Mercurio’s instructions to train at a secret academy, because she knows she’ll need to be at her very best in order to get at her targets, some of whom work at the highest levels of government. Even though his methods can be harsh and he might not always show compassion, Mercurio was extremely proud of Mia, regarding her as not only his best student, but also a daughter. (Read the full review…)