First, I enjoyed this book, which is available as an ebook through MUSA/Euterpe and also through Amazon.
Second, I’ve known the author literally since she was born, and count her as a dear friend. Just to get that out there in the front of anything else.
That said, “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” is as good a fantasy first novel as any I’ve read in a while. Fantasy novels have certain things going for them, or against them, depending on personal preference. They have a fair amount of backstory/world-building to do before they can get deep into the story. Anybody who’s ever read Tolkien knows that this has been a challenge all the way since the Big Daddy First Fantasy to Rule Them All, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. If you’re the kind of person who loves to dive head-first into a new world, with unusual names and unheard-of places and Important People you need to learn and remember early on, then you’re already comfortable with reading fantasy and won’t have any problem with all these things.
If you’re not accustomed to it, you’ll find that the Prologue is a strenuous chew. But hang in there, all will come clear and you’ll find that you needed to know all that prologue.
About midway through chapter one, “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” really hits its stride and from there on out, there’s plenty of plot to pull the reader though the occasional bit of necessary fill-in.
“The Blacksmith’s Daughter” hovers on an edge between standard fantasy, mild romance, and the Young Adult category the publishers have chosen to put it in. While many of the tropes in the story are fairly standard fantasy, none of them comes across as cookie-cutter. The pint-sized heroine is great fun, unexpected and full of twisty quirks, unusual strengths and a quiet competence not often seen in fantasy females. I love that not only is she a blacksmith’s daughter, she’s a blacksmith herself.
Oddly, the main hero character engaged me the least. He was certainly fine, but nothing really sets him apart. The main hero’s long-time best friend is far more interesting a character. I’ll be keeping an eye out for him if and when the promised sequel comes along!
All-told, “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” provides everything a reader could want from a fantasy novel: Engaging main characters, entertaining secondary characters, wizardly wizards, icky bad guys, sword play and magic. And about that magic: I’m really hard on magical systems in books and movies, because so often it’s misused as an abrupt deus ex machina. Wave your arms and make everything sparkly and fixed: That kind of magic. So I’m pleased to report that the magic in “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” has clearly been well thought out and has sane uses and limitations. Thanks, Arley, for that gift.
In conclusion, I only have one more thing to say: Where are the maps? You can’t have fantasy lands without maps. LOL It sprains the reader’s tiny mind!
My recommendation: Read “The Blacksmith’s Daughter.” And when you’re done, let me know what you think about Enith.
Because I think she’s fab. Just like the chick who brought her to life: Well done, young wizard. Well done indeed.