Betsy Dornbusch's Exile was published by Night Shade Books (Start Publishing) in January 2013.
Information about Betsy Dornbusch:
Betsy Dornbusch is the author of a dozen short stories, three novellas, and two novels. She also is an editor with the speculative fiction magazine Electric Spec and the longtime proprietress of Sex Scenes at Starbucks.
Information about Exile:
Draken vae Khellian, bastard cousin of the Monoean King, had risen far from his ignominious origins, becoming both a Bowrank Commander and a member of the Crown’s Black Guard. But when he is falsely condemned for the grisly murder of his beloved wife, he is banished from the kingdom and cast upon the distant shore of Akrasia, at the arse-end of the world.
Compared to civilized Monoea, Akrasia is a forbidding land of Moonlings, magic, and restless spirits. It is also a realm on the brink of a bloody revolution, as a sinister conspiracy plots against Akrasia's embattled young queen - and malevolent banes possess the bodies of the living.
Consumed by grief, and branded a murderer, Draken lives only to clear his name and avenge his wife's murder. But the fates may have bigger plans for him. Alone in a strange land, he soon finds himself sharing the bed of an enigmatic necromancer and a half-breed servant girl, while pressed into the service of a foreign queen whose life and land may well depend on the divided loyalties of an exiled warrior...
Exile is the beginning of an ambitious fantasy saga by an acclaimed new author.
A REVIEW OF BETSY DORNBUSCH'S EXILE
Betsy Dornbusch's Exile is the first part of The Seven Eyes fantasy series. The sequel, Emissary, will be published next year.
Before I write more about this novel, I'll have to mention that writing this review is difficult for me, because Exile is both a good and flawed fantasy novel. I'm a bit torn between liking and criticizing this novel. (I'll also briefly mention that I mostly agree with many other reviewers who have reviewed this novel and have pointed out the flaws in the story.)
This novel has all the necessary ingredients and elements that are needed to create an excellent fantasy novel, and it's definitely an entertaining and intriguing read, but - in my opinion - it lacks a bit of depth and style. The lack of depth and style isn't exactly a bad thing, because this novel is pure entertainment, but experienced adult fantasy readers will easily notice what's missing from the story. Readers who are looking for an entertaining and light story, will most likely enjoy this novel very much, because it's an exciting novel and a good start to a new fantasy series that differs from other series.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
- Draken vae Khellian is locked up in a ship's hold. He's half-breed - both royal blood and Brinian blood courses through his veins. The ship he's on is headed towards Akrasia, "the arse-end of the world". Draken has been in Black Guard and knows a few things about the world. He gained information about the world by interrogating Brinian soldiers. His wife has died in the hands of Akrasian magickers, and he is falsely condemned and banished to Akrasia for the murder of his wife. Draken is driven forward by his will to avenge his wife's death.
- Osias is a necromancer who saves Draken from spirit possession. He warns people of the banes (spirits). Osias takes Draken to meet Queen Elena, because he wants Draken to testify about the dangers of the banes. Setia is Osias' companion and half-Moonling.
- When Draken and Osias go to meet Queen Elena, the queen is almost killed, but is saved by Osias. Soon Draken tries to find the person who tried assassinate her...
Here's a few words about the good things in this novel:
- The best thing about this novel is that the fantasy world is genuinely interesting. For example, there are seven moons (Seven Eyes) at the sky that are worshipped as gods. There are also different races in the world.
- I also enjoyed reading about how Draken was torn between his desire for revenge and his duty to a foreign queen. To be honest, this made me read the whole novel as fast as possible, because I had to find out what happens to Draken and how he handles matters.
- There's intriguing magic in the world and it was interesting to read about it, but the magic system isn't fully explored in this novel. I hope that more things about the magic system will be revealed in the sequels, because reading about magic is always fun.
And here's a few words about the flaws in this novel:
- There's one very easily noticeable flaw in this novel. In my opinion things are too easy for the protagonist and he seems to overcome obstacles too easily. His situation improves too fast for my taste, because it feels unrealistic (when he's cast upon the shores of Akrasia, he almost immediately gets out of trouble and finds himself in a foreign court).
- The other noticeable flaw is that the characterization isn't as good as it could be. The characters are interesting, but there's not much depth in them. This bothered me, because in this kind of darker fantasy novels I expect to read about characters that have plenty of depth in them. Because Draken and Osias are interesting characters, it would've been nice to read more about their feelings, traits and flaws.
I have to mention that I found it interesting that the author refered to such difficult things as bisexuality and racial differences. Because these references added both originality and freshness to the story, it would've been nice if the author had written more about them.
Despite a few noticeable flaws Betsy Dornbusch definitely does have ambition and shows talent for writing adult fantasy that differs nicely from the new novels that other authors have written during the last couple of years. I'm sure that when she develops her writing style a bit further, she will become an author to watch for in the near future.
Rating this novel is a bit difficult for me, because despite its flaws I found myself liking it and look forward to reading the sequel. After careful consideration I decided to give Exile 3.5 stars, because it's good and harmless entertainment.
My final words are:
Although Exile does have flaws, it's a good, exciting and entertaining fantasy novel for adults, because it's something a bit different. I think that readers who get caught up in this novel's world will be thrilled to read what happens to Draken, because the story is a nice combination of familiar elements and a touch of originality and freshness. It's an excellent summer read.