Length: 576 pages
Publisher: Atthis Arts, LLC
I never try to review a novel from a writer’s or editor’s perspective. Instead, I try to focus on what the average reader, for that specific genre, would realistically expect. This is the only way to be fair to both author and reader. As I waded into E.D.E. Bell’s debut novel, Spireseeker, keeping this focus became increasingly difficult. The writer and editor in me kept coming out.
Spireseeker is the story of Beryl, a young woman who lives a sheltered existence with her grandparents on a quaint island. She knows she’s different, but not how different until agents of an evil power attack her home. In the course of the story, Beryl comes to discover she is really an elf, an ancient race charged by the “Creator” with, well, protecting Creation. Soon, Beryl discovers her destiny and that she possesses extraordinary powers. Sometimes running to danger, sometimes away, Beryl encounters a host of allies and enemies on her way to confront Aegra, an elf gone bad and bent on enslaving the world.
While adding a few unique twists, Spireseeker doesn’t stray far from the common fantasy tropes. I would classify it as “elf fantasy,” one of high fantasy’s many sub-genres. Elf fantasy has, of course, elves. It also possesses Tolkien-esque world building, complex magical lore, and an organic, earthy spirit. When well written, I enjoy this genre. Spireseeker clearly falls in this category. E.D.E. Bell’s love and knowledge of this genre obviously shines through. Let me be clear about this, E.D.E Bell can write, and when she is 'in the zone' Spireseeker is enjoyable, and sure to please fantasy purists.
However, Spireseeker is excessively long, especially for a debut novel. Epic fantasy novels are usually lengthy, and we all know that sometimes a good book can’t be long enough. Length would not have been an issue for Spireseeker if the book kept me engaged. It didn’t, because the novel’s plot and action were repeatedly interrupted by vast stretches of unproductive dialogue and narration. In my opinion, its almost 600 pages could have been easily cut by half. Now, with that said, let me explain why I might be wrong.
There is a breed of fantasy fan out there that can’t get enough elf lore, backstory, and mystical world building. To them, The Silmarillion, the ultimate elf lore book (and only 365 pages), is a light snack. It is this kind of material that fills much of Spireseeker’s long, static stretches. If you are a hardcore elfphile, Spireseeker might be your kind of novel.
For that reason, E.D.E Bell’s debut novel earns the benefit of the doubt and three stars. Otherwise, Spireseeker’s long, slow stretches could be too daunting for the rest of us.
3 out of 5 stars
Spireseeker on Amazon
Atthis Arts Website
EDE Bell on Facebook
Brian L. Braden is a UBR partner and assistant editor. His articles have been featured in a variety of defense magazines, websites, and books to include the Military Times, Air Power Journal, and Oxford University Press. His debut novel, Black Sea Gods, is available on Amazon. The sequel, Tears of the Dead, hits Amazon August 7th, 2014.