by E.D.E. Bell
Series: Shkode #1
The Banished Craft is a genre-bending fantasy saga that follows the adventures of Cor, a woman caught in a dying world that does not accept her, and Atesh, a dragon scientist who's been asked to violate his own ethics or put the lives of his family at risk. Follow their trials as they deal with a shattered world, mired in political upheaval, while they try to rediscover a lost magic. The Banished Craft begins the Shkode trilogy: a quirky and modern take on dragons and wizards, exploring themes of identity, prejudice, violence, compassion, and the ways we are all connected.
Now and again, I like to lose myself in a high fantasy and when the opportunity to review The Banished Craft by E.D.E. Bell came along, I accepted. It is the first in the Shkode trilogy. How could I pass up a world with DRAGONS and WIZARDS? Fascinating and quirky this adult fantasy can easily be read by fans of the genre in all age groups.
We start with a prologue in where we meet a scientist who studies Triverses and three-dimensional begins. On this particular outing, she takes her children along and her second child who is curious in nature passed his finger through one of these Triverses causing the worlds to split into two identical worlds separating the inhabitants. Unless those inhabitants pull their worlds back, together both worlds will be lost and thus our tale begins.
Banished Craft takes us into both worlds splitting our time between them and introducing us to multiple characters. Each world is identical physically but in one world the Dragons reside and in the other the humans. Each have knowledge of the other but believe the other to be extinct in their world.
In the human world of Terrah, we meet Cora, a bright young woman who resides near university and earns an income by secretly writing under a male pseudonym. Her world is ruled by a King and has several different districts. Women are not allowed to study, live alone, or own books *shivers* Even worse they cannot raise children without a man present. What an oppressive world. Cora is looking for answers about her murdered parents and can read and write. I liked Cora, she is inquisitive, and a rule breaker. The more we learn about her the more important we realize her role is. We also spend time with a young man named Borso. When his sister Sydra gets into trouble, he leaves his homeland and they travel to SeaState to the city of Porto Nobile. Here he hopes they can blend in and begin a new life. Events that occur lead to Borso’s discontent with the laws of his land and sets in motion a civil war. We also get a perspective from the King’s wife and I enjoyed these chapters.
In the second world, we meet the Dragons and oh, how I loved this world. The Dragons speak, attend university and are ruled by an Emperor named Zee. Here we meet Atesh a scientist who is secretly studying the plant known as ha and its properties. His wife Jwala is a member of the guard and expecting their first pup. A challenge to the Emperor has Zee ordering Atesh to produce a poison. Tension between Dronna, the Emperor’s Commander threatens them which creates this delicious tension. This world was wonderful and the descriptions of the dragons vivid and remarkable.
Both worlds suffered a major catastrophic event (what we know as the splitting) and for reasons not yet known have banned ha. Both experience earthquakes, and unexplained voids. Cora and Atesh who both experiment with ha hear a voice trying to warn them of something. (We know the voice to be that of the scientist trying to correct the wrong her son did) Both characters are strong and events towards the last part of this first novel have me excited about their roles.
I took my time reading the tale and did struggle slightly in the beginning which is oft to happen with high fantasy as the world is established. In the beginning, I wanted to spend more time in the Dragon world, but eventually I became caught up in both. The different perspectives sometimes pulled me out when I wanted to stay with a particular character. While I still have a zillion questions, those perspectives allowed me to get a feel for both worlds and its characters particularly those of Cora and Atesh.
The last one-third of The Banished Craft was intense and held me spellbound as the build of to events allowed me to have a clear picture as me moved towards a climatic ending. I have a feeling book two won’t feel as slow-paced since we have established the worlds, political climates and have been introduced to all the key players and threads of this epic fantasy.
Original, fresh and full of dragons and wizards, the world we visit in The Banished Craft was delightfully imaginative and I look forward to visiting this world and its characters again.
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