Courtney Schafer is an American debut fantasy author. The Whitefire Crossing was published in July/August 2011 by Night Shade Books. It's the first book of The Shattered Sigil series (the next book, The Tainted City, will be published in 2012).

Click here to visit Courtney Schafer's official website.

Here's a description of The Whitefire Crossing:

Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He's in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it's easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.

But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.

Yet the young mage is not the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.

And here's the review:

A REVIEW OF COURTNEY SCHAFER'S THE WHITEFIRE CROSSING

I became interested in Courtney Schafer's The Whitefire Crossing a few weeks ago, because it seemed to be a fascinating debut fantasy book. Now that I've read it, I can say that my first impressions were right, because The Whitefire Crossing turned out to be a very good book. To be honest, it's one of the best fantasy books I've read this year and it's an amazingly good and fast-paced debut book (I've always loved good and entertaining fantasy books, so I enjoyed reading this book). I'm already looking forward to reading the sequel, The Tainted City, because I want to know what the author writes next.

There are several new (and old) fantasy adventures, but there are only a handful of books, which can be compared to The Whitefire Crossing, because it lacks all the usual adventure clichés – the author has managed to avoid obvious clichés and has written a charming adventure for adults. In my opinion The Whitefire Crossing is an astonishing and surprisingly intimate adventure story, because there are only two main characters and the events are told from their point of view.

The Whitefire Crossing is a story about two male characters, Dev and Kiran, and their desperate (and dangerous) race across the Whitefire Mountains. Here's a bit of information about Dev and Kiran and the plot:

  • Dev is a skilled smuggler who can smuggle anything from Ninavel to Alathia. He has never smuggled a person before, but due to personal reasons he agrees to smuggle Kiran to Alathia, because he needs extra money. He is suspicious about Kiran's reasons to escape unnoticed from Ninavel, but he decides to do his job.
  • Kiran is a mage and he's trying desperately to get as far away from a powerful and ruthless mage called Ruslan as possible. He doesn't want anybody to know about who he is, because he fears that people wouldn't help him if they knew why he's leaving Ninavel in a hurry. He doesn't any experience about living in a wilderness and he isn't used to rough conditions.
  • Dev and Kiran come from different worlds, so they have different customs and opinions about several things. Both of them have their own secrets, which they're reluctant to reveal, but they have to learn to trust each other in order to survive.

Although The Whitefire Crossing is basically a story about Dev and Kiran, it's also a story about friendship, prejudice, sacrifice and magic. This book could've easily been a simple adventure story, but the way the author writes about the feelings and lives of the main characters separates this book from similar adventure stories. The finer aspects of their friendship are handled superbly. I was impressed how the author gradually revealed things about the characters and added more depth to them. Dev and Kiran are realistic characters and they both have their own strenghts and weaknesses. In other words, the characterization is perfect and intriguing.

The author switches narration fluently from the first person to the third person and keeps the prose flowing gently and gracefully. The plot moves fast forward and the pace is almost breathtaking. The story starts fast and as events begin to unfold, the main characters find themselves in all kinds of trouble.

Courtney Schafer has created a fascinating fantasy world. The author writes skillfully about different areas and creates a believable and intereting fantasy world. The worldbuilding is almost minimalistic, but it's done with skill. I think that the author has a lot more to write about her fantasy world, so the readers will find out more about the world in the sequels.

The magic system in this book is normal and it doesn't differ much from other authors' magic systems, but Courtney Schafer has developed a believable magic system. Her magic system includes different kind of mages (earth mage, blood mage and other types of mages), charms, wards and spells. The charms and wards play a big role in this book, because the characters use them for all kinds of purposes. For example, the characters can heal injuries and send messages across long distances with charms.

It was fascinating to read about the differences between mages and normal people, because there were different kind of mages and people feared them, because even minor mages could be dangerous to normal people. It was nice that the author wrote about the darker side of magic, because all too often authors tend to use magic too lightly and forget that the mage or people around the mage may have to pay a heavy price for magic. In this book magic can be very dangerous and even deadly.

I enjoyed reading about the differences between Ninavel and Alathia, because they were totally different kind of places with their own restrictions and rules. Ninavel is full of magic (all sorts of magic) and lots of mages live there. Alathia is a totally different kind of a place, because strong magic isn't allowed in Alathia.

The author's descriptions of the mountain landscapes were almost poetic. The Whitefire Mountains are described as a vast area full of dangers (avalanches etc) and beautiful places. It's simply astonishing how lovingly Courtney Schafer wrote about the mountains. It felt almost like being there in person when she wrote about the gorgeous vistas, peaks, valleys and lakes. I think that the author's personal experiences about rock climbing and backpacking have inspired her to write so beautifully about the mountains, because only a person who loves nature and outdoor adventures could've written something so impressive and breathtaking.

Courtney Schafer's prose is a pleasure to read. I think that several fantasy readers will like her prose, because she writes accessible fantasy prose and introduces new concepts (tainted children, ikilhia, highsiders, streetsiders etc) in an easy and entertaining way. Everything isn't explained immediately, so the reader will have to be patient in order to fully understand certain things. For example, the taint and the change are things which are explained bit by bit.

I can recommend this book to new fantasy readers and experienced fantasy readers, because it's perfect entertainment. I think that readers who don't normally read fantasy will love this book because of its fast-paced action and exciting plot. Experienced fantasy readers will be delighted by the gradually unfolding story and the marvelous characterization.

The Whitefire Crossing is a wonderful and enjoyable fantasy debut from a new and talented author. If you're looking for a new and entertaining fantasy adventure, you must read this book. It's an adventure of the highest order and it's one of the best and finest fantasy books of 2011.

Highly recommended!

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