The Ruins on Stone Hill (Heroes of Ravenford Book 1)
A few misfit adventurers quickly band together when their caravan is attacked by orcs. Glolindir is an apprentice elven wizard befriended to a gnomish cleric, Aksel, and halfling ninja, Seth. Lloyd is a whirlwind human spiritblade who helps defend them from the monstrous creatures. A simplistic tale with definitively categorized good and evil, The Ruins on Stone Hill is an uncomplicated story of the male heroes’ do-gooder overarching quest to eliminate bad guys, help others, and receive their due of fame and fortune. Set in the human kingdom near small town Ravenford, the party quickly attracts more adventurers: ranger Brundon, warrior Delgron, and bard Elladan.
Reading the novel is akin to watching a group of novice players reacting to and working through their first Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It is essentially a text-based description of the generic fantasy adventure: an old school mirror of today’s popular YouTube walkthroughs. The author has included or mentioned the major races (gnomes, elves, dwarves, humans, halflings) and classes (bard, cleric, thief, fighter, ranger, mage). Classic creatures from the Monster Manual feature roles as well such as drow, trolls, gelatinous cubes, orcs, bugbears, and giants.
While a great swords and sorcery-type introduction to the genre in this classic fantasy novel, I did have two elements of constructive criticism. First, it was really difficult to place the intended age group for F. P. Spirit’s readers. It was a little light in description and emotion for young adult or adult readers to really engage with and immerse in the stories. Simultaneously, however, it seems unsuited for really young children as the heroes seem to have no qualms regarding the deaths they assign. While this should be expected in this genre, it seems children might have difficulties dismissing the unrealistic righteousness the fictional heroes display. It is probably best suited as a light read for individuals with more maturity.
Second, females were underrepresented and fit stereotypical literary devices. As a female who has enjoyed fantasy, sci-fi, RPGs, MUDs, and MMOs for over two decades, it gets old to have choices to either identify with a male, a helpless tavern maid looking to hook up with her true love, a wise and compassionate mother, or an over-sexualized female warrior under-dressed in her skimpy armor with her assets on display. As a mother, it also distressed me that if this is intended as a book for younger tweens, that these roles are what they will understand as representative of the genre and femininity.
Taken as a whole, F. P. Spirit did a great job of writing a straightforward classic fantasy novel with all the flavors of a Forgotten Realms adventure that will likely be enjoyed by anyone who has crawled a few dungeons in their own time and will hopefully entice a few level zero humans with no class to don their own fantastical personas.
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