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I have a hard time reading most fantasy novels because they usually tend to be knockoffs of Lord of the Rings. You know, the hero has to undertake a journey with an elf or some other creatures. There’s some magic involved and a quest to fulfill. Most fantasy writers are extremely talented but even with some great prose, I can’t get past a few chapters and put the book down because they seem to be the same type of story with different characters.
Thankfully Karen Hoover’s debut fantasy novel, The Sapphire Flute, isn’t anything like that. Yes, it has a lot of the elements that you’ll find in other high fantasy books (magic, creatures that aren’t what they appear), but the story’s refreshingly original and protagonists, Ember and Kayla, as well as the antagonist, C'Tan, are all female.
Ember, Kayla, and C’Tan are what keep the novel moving. Hoover does a good job making Ember and Kayla feel real and people you want to root for even though, like all great characters, they’re flawed and make mistakes. That alone made it me wanting to keep reading the book. Like all good, evil characters, C’Tan is fascinating and I wanted to see more of her. But since The Sapphire Flute is the first of seven books, I’m sure we’ll see more of her before too long.
Hoover also does a good job jumping between their three storylines though at times I felt I was just settling into, say, Ember’s story only to jump over to Kayla. It wasn’t a bad thing but there were times I wished I could get another Ember chapter in before making the transition to Kayla. I also enjoyed Hoover’s writing style—it’s detailed without being overbearing. Some people may not like that but it’s perfect for the YA crowd which The Sapphire Flute is targeted.
My only complaint with the novel is Ember and Kayla’s paths never cross—even though the reader knows it’s going to happen at some point. Yes, I knew that this is the first book in a seven book series and that Hoover is laying the foundation of a world that still has a lot to be explored but I was kind of hoping that they would meet in this book.
But that’s a minor complaint. Hoover is a very talented and imaginative writer and wrote a fantasy book that I actually enjoyed reading. That’s a big compliment considering I can’t get past chapter three or four of fantasy novels written by more famous writers. Good job, Karen. I can’t wait to read book two.
The target audience for The Sapphire Flute is teenage females but fans of fantasy and those who enjoy stories with strong (but human) female protagonists should enjoy reading it. (For the record, Marathon Girl enjoyed it and she’s generally not a big fantasy fan.) I wish my daughter was old enough to read this book because I’d be interested to see how the target audience responds. Alas, I’ll have to wait another 10 years for that to happen. Until then, you can read more about the book here and see for yourself if The Sapphire Flute is something you or your teenage daughter would enjoy.
4 starts (out of 5) for The Sapphire Flute