The Wizard's Ward (Vale #1) by Jules McAleese
In the world of Vale, the King of the Elves lives in fear of an ancient prophecy. 'Only a gray blood can kill the king', or so it foretells.
But nobody in the land of Vale has gray blood: not the elves who rule the land, the mortals who inhabit the villages, the mer who rule the sea, or the witches who are engaged in a bloody and costly war with the elves. No one except Francis, and her life depends on keeping this secret.
When Billington, the King's Wizard, brought under his protection a newborn baby, an infant hunted by the king's Sleuths, his decision put both of their lives in jeopardy.
Fifteen years later and now the wizard's ward, Francis is shaken as her protector disappears from the castle overnight, and she must enlist the help of her first love, a battle-ridden soldier named X, as she embarks on a quest of survival and self-discovery.
But outside the safety of the castle's walls, a war is raging and Francis must endure betrayal and face a myriad of dangers plaguing the land of Vale as she seeks to find the only family that she has ever known. As she encounters shapeshifting bounty hunters, marauding pirates, and dragons that dwell in the witch's mountains, can Francis uncover the true power of her gray blood? Or is the King's prophecy just a thing of legend?
As the first installment of the young adult fantasy Vale series, this mystical tale is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Holly Black.
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4 out of 5 (very good)
THE WIZARD'S WARD is the first book in the Vale series and we are introduced to a world divided - you have the mers, the elves, the mortals, and the witches. Only by combining these four races in equal measure, do you get a grey blood. Francis is such a unicorn but she doesn't know it.
We start off with her life in the castle, as a ward to the wizard - in case the title didn't give it away! We learn of her friendship with X, a son to one of the military leaders, who disappears one day without saying goodbye. We learn of her role (sort of) in the castle, with those she likes and loves, and those she loathes. When Billington (the wizard) disappears, Francis is determined to find him and sets out, with X's help. Along the way, they meet friend and foe, but no one seems to be as they appear.
This is a twisted and intriguing story that will keep you turning the pages. Francis is a strong character who faces situations head-on, even if she knows she is at a disadvantage. She doesn't sit back and wait to be rescued. Instead, she forges bonds with others, and does her best to help, no matter the circumstances.
X is a character that I thoroughly enjoyed. He is complex and dark, and I can't wait to see where he goes next. How he was, was NOT what I was expecting, so I loved that it caught me unawares.
I personally wish we had more details about the Rottentoes. I can see Ezrah and Cornelia, but Puck and Darwin seemed to fade together. Cora is also a character with a lot of depth.
There are parts of this story that are full of world- and character-building, but there are other parts that almost seem skimmed over. I would have love to have known more about the world itself, the elves' kingdom, the geography.
As a debut book, I thought this was off to a brilliant start. The story is there, and with great characters. I look forward to reading more by this author and continuing with this saga. Recommended by me.
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
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Jules hails from Portland, OR. She lives with her husband, daughter, and golden retriever in a house built in 1906, that she and her husband restored themselves. Before becoming a writer, she was a creative producer that worked in film, experiential and digital marketing. When she’s not writing thrilling fantasy stories for young adults, Jules can be found spending time with her family at the Oregon Coast or eating a burger at the local pub.
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