A review of Justyna Plichta-Jendzio's Damned Children of Naor

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Justyna Plichta-Jendzio's Damned Children of Naor was published by Devine Destinies in June 2015.

Information about Justyna Plichta-Jendzio:

Justyna Plichta-Jendzio was born in Koszalin (Poland) in 1974, and still resides near there. Married for sixteen years, she is the mother of one son and the happy owner of two spoiled cats. Justyna was lucky to live at the crossroads of two ages, communism and capitalism. When she was fifteen, communism fell in Poland. That time allowed her to see different reality, incomprehensible for future generations. It was also the chance to touch the past and have a glimpse at the remains of nineteenth century life, which survived especially in the Eastern parts of Poland till the end of the 1980's.

Justyna's works are very strongly influenced by her interests. The range of the interest is wide. She is fond of Ancient and Medieval history. She also improves her knowledge of history of the world's two main religions and their influence in societies, global and local policy and the development of civilization. She likes to know cultures that are regarded as exotic, both present and ancient. She is fond of nature and geography. As a writer, Justyna loves to read ancient legends, myths and mysterious stories. All of this is seen in her writing.

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Information about Damned Chilren of Naor:

In the struggle between good and evil, no one remains neutral. Choose one of the sides and choose wisely because the gods will weigh your soul.

Evil lurks everywhere and only waits for the opportunity to hunt down and devour the souls of its victims. It is all the same to the evil whether those souls belong to slaves, peasants, monks, nobles or kings. Every mortal must make a choice whether he wants to devote his soul to perdition or save it, even at the cost of life. This battle has been fought for millennia and its arena is every corner of Naor. Anyone can become a warrior and his main arms will not be a weapon forged by smiths' hammers but faith given by the gods of lightness.

This time the goddess of fate chose Isilai, a merchant's daughter from the far south, who was dreaming of traveling and leading a free life. The goddess's finger also pointed to Sainal, a mercenary returning from wars to her lands. Valbern, an aide to a powerful lord Kolbren, has not been spared the test as well. Each of them had to face the evil. Did they decide to sacrifice what was the most precious in their lives to keep their souls away from hell?

A REVIEW OF JUSTYNA PLICHTA-JENDZIO'S DAMNED CHILDREN OF NAOR

Justyna Plichta-Jendzio's Damned Children of Naor is a welcome addition to the compelling Naor series. It invites readers on an intriguing journey into a fantasy world that is inhabited by fascinating characters and creatures. It reveals more things about the world of Naor to readers. Although this book is part of a larger series, it can be read as a standalone book (the Naor series currently consists of this book and three previous books, each of which contains three different stories about the world of Naor).

When you've read plenty of fantasy books and stories, you begin to notice that it's difficult to find freshness in new fantasy books. After a while you begin to feel that several of the new books tend to recycle well-known elements and have little freshness and style in them. That's why books like Damned Children of Naor are a welcome sight, because it's wonderful to read books that genuinely have that special something in them that makes them worth reading and praising.

In my opinion, Damned Children of Naor is a book that stands out among other fantasy books, because Justyna Plichta-Jendzio has created a vast fantasy world that is full of different cultures, races, creatures and magic. It's refreshingly different yet familiar enough to attract the attention of a fantasy reader who wants to be entertained and fascinated by good fantasy.

Damned Chilren of Naor consists of the following wonderfully realised stories:

Chapter 1: Time of Storms:

Isilai is a merchant's daughter who's returning to the city (Ganarra, the capital of the kingdom of Carandia) with her slave and maidservant, Ngami. She has been to the temple and made a gift for the successful return of her younger sister, Dibari, from her pilgrimage to the city of Dassab. Suddenly Isilai faints and her eyes are shiny and blue sparks glitter on her hair and white fire lingers over her forehead... Soon Isilai's father sells her to the royal harem and she meets Prince Tarragon...

Chapter 2: Mists of Midalvan:

This story opens with a scene in which hunters are attacked by a bear. One of the hunters, Gurhard, notices that the bear is possessed by a virquan (a vampire of souls that feeds on the power of life from other living beings). The hunters have to escape and soon their boat drifts to Midalvan... Valbern is a mercenary who arrives in Midalvan at the monastery. He is to take Lord Kolbren's daughter, Miss Gaenael, back to the family castle, but Miss Gaenael has fallen ill...

Chapter 3: Spark of Truth:

Sainal is a mercenary who has to stay in a village, because her horse has lost a shoe. There have been fires around the village and a girl, Nerenay, is accused of being an incandor, a fire demon. Sainal begins to investigate things related to the fires and finds out intriguing things...

"Time of Storms" is the strongest of these three stories, but "Mists of Midalvan" and "Spark of Truth" are also excellent and well written stories. I have nothing bad to say about any of these stories, because I enjoyed reading them.

The worldbuilding is excellent and works perfectly. The author evokes images of the deserts, islands, villages, monasteries and other places of the word of Naor with her descriptive writing style. There's a certain down-to-earth yet fantastical appeal to her descriptions about the different places. The world of Naor opens up to readers through the different stories in an intriguing light, because each of the stories takes place in a different part of the world.

I've noticed that the more I read about the world of Naor, the more I want to know about it and its wonders. This happens to me only when I read something that impresses me a lot. This book and its predecessor have managed to do that to me, because the author's fantasy world feels vibrantly alive.

I'm personally amazed at the author's ability to write about different locales and characters in a convincing and realistic manner. Each of the different areas feels believable and realistic. For example, if you compare "Time of Storms" to "Mists of Midalvan", you'll immediately notice how much they differ from each other. Both stories take place in the same world, but in different areas where people live differently and have to deal with different and various problems.

Good worldbuilding is not the only thing that impressed me. Justyna Plichta-Jendzio has a talent for creating realistic and fully-fleshed characters that act like real persons and have feelings, desires and goals of their own. She writes richly about the characters' lives, feelings and adventures, and - what's best - she avoids solving the characters' problems in an easy way.

The character interaction works well. It's enjoyable to read what the characters say to each other and how they react to problems and surprises. The dialogues between the different characters are surprisingly realistic.

The author also has a talent for creating tension and excitement, because she easily hooks her reader with the happenings. She has spent time on polishing her stories and has added several interesting elements and suprises to them so that her readers will enjoy them.

There's a wonderfully Middle-Eastern atmosphere to "Time of Storms" that I found fascinating. The author's approach to slavery and women's place among powerful men is handled well. In this story, the author writes well about how women can be sold to the royal harem without their permission and how they are treated elsewhere. It was interesting that the author wrote about women's lives and what they had to endure in the royal harem.

It was fascinating to read about how Isilai's fate was considered to be a huge honour, because she could give a child to the heir of the throne. However, Isilai didn't consider it to be an honour, because she wanted to do something else and travel the world. She was in despair and wanted to be free, but couldn't do anything to free herself. When she had to go to the harem, her whole life changed and she found herself in a whole new position and had to adapt to life in the harem.

Sainal, the protagonist in "Spark of Truth", is a fascinating and strong-willed character, and Valbern in "Mists of Midalvan" is also a well-created character. These two characters represent how well the author reveals things about the world through their deeds and experiences, because they deal with their own problems and supernatural threats.

The author writes boldly and sensually about sex and sexual situations between the characters. I think it's nice that in this book sex and sexual situations are part of the characters' lives and thus part of the story. These scenes feel approriately lustful and explicit yet erotic and sensual.

Brutality and darkness can be found in all of these stories, because the world of Naor can be a harsh place and different kind of things can happen to its inhabitants. Bad things can easily happen to people and evil may threaten many people, because nobody is safe from its influence (evil lurks everywhere and no matter who you are or where you are from, you may fall under its power). I have to admit that I was surprised by how easily the author blends elements of fantasy, dark fantasy and horror in her narrative.

It's great that the author writes realistically about what happens in the world and out in the wild areas outside the cities. This adds harsh realism and roughness to the fantasy world.

There's exciting magic and beings in these stories, because the author writes about leihals who use arquilians to kill demons, fire demons and virquans that are vampires of souls that feed on the power of life. The author exhibits signs of exceptional creativity, because she has created interesting beings with dark powers. In my opinion, her approach to magic and different beings feels charmingly mysterious and mythical.

"Mists of Midalvan" and "Spark of Truth" had something in them that reminded me a bit of the stories written by Robert E. Howard. They were dark and fascinating in a similar kind of way as some of Howard's dark fantasy stories. I'm sure that they will be please fans of dark fantasy stories, because the characters are well-created and the happenings are fascinatingly dark. I'll mention that I was pleasantly surprised by the ending of "Spark of Truth", because it was excellent and thrillingly dark in every possible way.

Justyna Plichta-Jendzio clearly seems to love storytelling, because Damned Children of Naor is just as good and interesting as the previous Naor books. It's easy for the reader to see that her stories have strongly been influenced by her interest in ancient legends, mythology, folklore, history and nature.

The cover image by Richard Jalowy looks nice and detailed. It reminds me slightly of the fantasy paintings by Boris Vallejo.

If you haven't had an opportunity to get yourself acquainted with Justyna Plichta-Jendzio's Naor books and their fascinating fantasy world, Damned Children of Naor is an excellent starting point. I strongly recommend Damned Children of Naor and the previous Naor books (Dark Children of Naor, Evil Children of Naor and Cursed Children of Naor) to fantasy readers, because they're fascinating books about the world of Naor, its different locales and its various inhabitants. They're highly enjoyable fantasy books.

Excellent fantasy entertainment!