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Thursday, October 5, 2023

SPFBO9 Finalist: The Last Ranger by J. D. L. Rosell (reviewed by Esmay Rosalyne)

 


Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
 
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Last Ranger is one of those epic fantasy books that filled me with wonder and reminded me of why I fell in love with this genre in the first place. It takes all the best elements from some of the most well-beloved stories in the genre, throws in some wholly unique and marvelous new concepts, and somehow blends it all together into an exciting and utterly entrancing story. This is character-driven epic fantasy at its very best.

Leiyn is living her best life as a Ranger of the Titan Wilds, scouting the lands for the dangerous creatures, massive elemental titans, and magical spirits that need to be kept in check. However, when tragedy strikes and she loses everything she has ever held dear, she swears to exact vengeance on those responsible, if she can figure out who they are. And so begins an adventure full of magic, self-discovery, endurance, political conspiracies, unlikely alliances, and most of all, a whole lot of wonder.

The world that we are thrust into is simply breathtaking and the world building feels so incredibly organic and immersive. From the very first page, the lush landscapes and fascinating magical inhabitants just came to life before my eyes, which is an experience I rarely have as someone who struggles to visualise while reading. It did take me a bit to find my footing and get a good grasp on the tense political landscape with its conflicting factions, but that initial level of slight bewilderment only added to the intrigue for me.

I also really loved that the magic system is wonderfully soft and whimsical, yet at the same time it comes at a very high cost. The stakes are very high and actions are proven to have serious consequences, which really kept me on the edge of my seat.

Now, while I personally tend to enjoy flawed and unlikable female protagonists, it did take me a bit to really warm up to Leiyn. All her virtues and vices are on full display, which I personally think makes her a very well-written and almost frustratingly realistic character. She is brash, impulsive, confident, fiercely loyal, slightly self-righteous, and casually yet unapologetically queer. Her own internal prejudices are also extremely strong and it seems almost impossible to imagine how she will ever overcome them, but the character growth that we get to witness over the course of the story is truly magnificent.

Leiyn’s journey starts out as a very single-minded quest for revenge, but along the way, her walls come down and he slowly starts to doubt everything she has been told to believe. It’s a rocky process including much doubt, backtracking, and inner conflict, but that is exactly why her development feels so realistic, satisfying and earned. The themes of racism, colonization, xenophobia and revenge are very delicately handled and seamlessly woven into this narrative, which made the story all the more impactful.

Don’t let those heavy themes scare you off though, because while the author definitely isn’t afraid to go dark, he also manages to maintain a light-hearted and entertaining tone that keeps the story from becoming too bleak or depressing. Leiyn’s story might be harrowing and full of tragedy, but I really appreciated that she does not have to endure it all alone. The strong friendships and unlikely alliances that are established throughout this story are incredibly heartwarming and provide a wonderful counterbalance against all the chaos and destruction.

All in all, I am incredibly impressed with this story and I can’t wait to explore this intriguing world further in the future. Rosell was able to capture my imagination and fill me with wonder like very few other authors can, making this one of the most captivating reading experiences I have had in a long time. If you are in the mood for an engaging epic fantasy adventure with a fierce female lead and some of the most immersive world building you will ever have the pleasure of experiencing, then you have to check out The Last Ranger.

1 comments:

plaisanter said...

I just added this to my overburdened shelves!

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