Anders Reemark's Mandigo and the Hellhounds was published by Elsewhen Press as an e-book in August 2016. The paperback edition will be published in September 2016.

Information about Anders Reemark:

Anders Reemark was born in 1980 in Denmark. After highschool and business school, Anders was employed by Danske Bank, where he still works. Anders and his wife and four-year-old daughter currently reside in a suburb of Copenhagen together with a cat called Mouse(!)

Always an avid reader, Anders got into writing when reading aloud to his daughter. She always wanted more stories, and he discovered that he had a storytelling gift of his own. He began to write his stories down, and Mandigo and the Hellhounds is his first novel.

Information about Mandigo and the Hellhounds:

The first book in the Mandigo trilogy.

When eight-year old Mandigo finds a baby on a raft in a river, he saves it but, when he tries to carry it back to his village, he is stopped by a large stag. The stag forces Mandigo to take the baby deep into the forest, and soon other animals join the curious trio...

Thus begin the adventures of Mandigo, a boy who spends his days toiling in his father’s mill in the mediaeval village of Oakhill. Little does he know that his life until this moment has all been one big lie. When the cataclysmic event known as the Storm wreaked havoc across the world many years before, it changed the landscape and released violent magical forces.

By his twelfth birthday, Mandigo has discovered that he has become the unwitting focus of those magical forces. He must quickly learn how to deal with them in order to save not only his own soul, but also the lives of everyone he loves.

The problem is that the Hellhounds are already on to him...

A REVIEW OF ANDERS REEMARK'S MANDIGO AND THE HELLHOUNDS

Anders Reemark's Mandigo and the Hellhounds is the first novel in the Mandigo trilogy. It's an epic, fast-paced and well written fantasy novel for young adult readers. It will also be of interest to adult readers who love entertaining fantasy novels.

Before I delve into reviewing and analysing the contents of this novel, I'll mention that I've noticed that there's currently a trend going on which inspires authors to write fiction that is similar to George R.R. Martin's epic and realistic fantasy novels (even YA authors have begun to write this kind of fantasy fiction). This is a welcome trend, but I've come to miss classic YA fantasy fiction that is reminiscent of Tolkienesque fantasy fiction. Because I've always loved Tolkienesque fantasy and enjoy reading about magic, evil forces, elves and wizards, I was thrilled to read this novel. As much as I love modern epic fantasy, it feels refreshing to read this kind of classic fantasy for a change.

Mandigo and the Hellhounds was a pleasant and rewarding reading experience for me, because the story was good. It was refreshing to read it, because the events were satisfyingly dark and epic and it had an easily likeable protagonist.

This novel was originally published in Danish in 2015 (the original Danish title is Mandigo og Helvedeshundene). It has been translated into English by Nina Sokol, who has done her best to convey the nuances of the original story to English-speaking readers.

I consider Mandigo and the Hellhounds to be one of the best epic YA fantasy novels written during the recent years, because it has clearly been written out of love for classic epic fantasy. When you begin to read it, you'll immediately feel at home with the story, because it has elements ranging from young magic users to evil forces. It's a brightly shining gem of epic YA fantasy.

Here's a bit of information about the story:

- In the prologue, Mandigo is on his way to see the wise woman, Greta, when he hears a baby crying. He bravely goes into the cold water and saves the baby. When he rescues the baby, he encounters a stag that seems to behave oddly. The stag forces him to move deeper into the forest. Soon other animals begin to circle around him and surround him and he meets an enormous wolf, Maggdan, King of the Forest...

- Mandigo takes the baby to Greta who begins to nurse her. Greta finds a piece of jewelry, a brooch, that has been tucked between the blankets and notices that it has Faerul runes on it. It's possible that the brooch may be the same brooch that an elf girl called Belatrix gave to a human warrior called Zardan to prolong his life. Greta decides to take care of the baby and needs Mandigo's help to do so. She persuades his father to let him help her. During their meetings, Greta teaches Mandigo many things. She tells him about the Lord of Shadows and magic...

- Soon things change, because Mandigo finds out that he has become the focus of dark magical forces. A mysterious man called Mortero arrives at the village and takes him to a fortress called Bloodstone. Mortero tells Mandigo that his parents are not his real parents and begins to teach magic to him. Mandigo feels that Mortero is not telling him the whole truth...

This is the beginning of a well-constructed and thrilling story about an epic battle between good and evil, family secrets and magic.

Mandigo is an interesting and well-created character who has his own feelings and problems. He's different from his brothers, because he's intelligent and has a talent for magic. Although his life is complicated, he easily adapts to changes. Even though he is scarred by a meeting with a demon, he remains strong and resilient.

Greta, the wise woman, is an especially intriguing character, because she knows much about nature, healing, history and elves. She has magical powers, but she keeps them hidden from others. She teaches many things to Mandigo, including how to use herbs and magic.

Mortero is an important and foreboding character in Mandigo's life. He's a powerful man who has strong magical powers. It was thrilling to read about what he intended to do and what kind of a connection he had to Mandigo.

The author writes believable about the difficult relationship between Mandigo and his foster father. Mandigo's foster father is described as a tough person who doesn't tolerate idleness and expects to be obeyed without questions. Mandigo's relationship with other members of his family is also handled exceptionally well, because his brothers are envious of his education.

I think it's great that the author pays attention to writing about how people feel about those who differ from them. Reading about how people felt about what happened between Mandigo and Greta was fascinating, because the author wrote convincingly about people's suspicions and prejudices.

I enjoyed reading about Mortero and the Bloodstone Wizard's Academy, because the author's vision of how magic can be used to achieve many things felt fascinating and he wrote well about magical powers and different beings. I'd like to write more about magic and the secrets of Bloodstone, but I won't go into details about them in order to avoid major spoilers (this novel contains so many happenings and intriguing scenes that it wouldn't be fair to reveal everything in this review).

It was interesting for me to find out who Mandigo really was and what happened to his real parents, because many things had been kept secret from him. The author has done an excellent job at creating a mysterious past for Mandigo and he takes good care not to reveal everything at once. By gradually revealing bits and pieces about Mandigo's life, the author makes him an interesting character.

Worldbuilding is impressive, because the world (Stormlands) has a dark history. The cataclysmic event known as the Storm caused great havoc and entire towns and kingdoms fell and plagues and diseases spread everywhere killing many of the people who initially survived the Storm. People believe that the Storm was a punishment from God, because they turned their backs on Him.

Anders Reemark's vision of good and evil is interesting and has a timeless quality to it. The impending threat of the Lord of Shadows added a fascinating touch of darkness and malice to the storyline.

This novel has everything that I expect to find in classic YA fantasy fiction: elves, magic, strange happenings, good storytelling and plenty of excitement and adventure. These elements appealed to me and made me read the story as fast as possible (if you're like me and love classic YA fantasy, you'll also find these elements irresistible).

One of the most important things why Mandigo and the Hellhounds is an interesting novel is that it has a Scandinavian feel to it. After having read several English fantasy novels, this novel felt like a breath of fresh air to me.

Belatrix's love towards Zardan reminded me a bit of the love between Beren and Lúthien in Tolkien's The Silmarillion. It also reminded me of old fairy tales and fantasy stories in which elves and humans fall in love with each other with tragic consequences.

Anders Reemark writes fluent and fast-moving prose. It's easy to like his writing style, because he knows how to keep the story moving fast forward. It's great that he effortlessly builds up tension from the intriguing prologue towards the epic ending.

The ending is satisfyingly epic and thrilling. It lays a foundation for the sequels and makes readers want to know more about certain things. Because I enjoyed this novel and loved its ending, I look forward to reading the sequel, Secrets of S'ouara.

Anders Reemark's Mandigo and the Hellhounds is one of the best YA fantasy novels I've read during the last couple of years, because it has plenty of old-fashioned charm and several classic fantasy elements. It wholly captivated me with its gradually unfolding story and dark atmosphere. This novel is epic YA fantasy fiction at its best and most intriguing, because it feels almost like a tribute to classic fantasy stories. If you enjoy classic fantasy, you should consider reading this novel.

My final words are:

Mandigo and the Hellhounds is intriguing YA fantasy entertainment with classic fantasy elements!

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