The Burning Land
By David Hair
- The Burning Land
Author: David Hair
- Series: Book 1 of The Talmont Trilogy
Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc
- ISBN: 9781529422887
- Published: February 2024
- Pages: 430
- Format reviewed: Hardback
- Review date: 02/02/2024
- Language: English
Epic fantasy novels are filled with fellowships from the OG to the 700-page opuses of today. What differs across all these books is how close the fellows are. Multiple character perspectives do not a fellowship make if they never meet each other, you want a close group of people all setting out on the same quest. When they have acquired a kindred spirit only then should you think to split them. David Hair has produced his own group of unlikely heroes in The Burning Land, the first in the new Talmont Trilogy, and this is a team worth fighting for.
The Vestal Order are chosen soldiers, blessed with the power to channel magic on behalf of their king. Romara Challys is the leader of the Falcons, tasked with an orderly retreat under overwhelming odds. Success does not lead to glory, but to being a scapegoat for failure. Romara finds herself on the run along with the remaining members of the Falcons and a couple of eccentric additions. Can this ragged troop of fugitives find safety and the truth behind the war that is tearing the Kingdom apart?
Burning is in many ways classic fantasy fiction. It captures the feel of The Fellowship of the Rings and that is no bad thing, as it was always my favourite of the books. The book is told from several perspectives, but rather than separate them, every member of the Falcons ensemble has a voice. We do hear from those chasing the fugitives and the King himself, but much of the book is about the Falcon’s plight.
This gives the novel a contained and intimate feel that I find is often lacking in fantasy. This closeknit group of characters are forced to depend on one another with their lives. To make a troop special you need varied characters and Hair has achieved this. The fiery leader losing her grip, the wild man that tames her, the able assistant who comes to the fore, an impish thief, naive intern, and a couple of hardened veterans who have their own secrets to keep.
Hair gives all the characters their moment to shine. You think the lead character is going to be Romara, but it soon becomes an ensemble piece and she even drifts into the background at times. The book is a classic feeling fantasy road movie as the characters are constantly fighting and moving on to the next adventure. This allows us to explore some of the wider world and get a glimpse into the deeper reasons behind the war. Hair proved in his excellent The Tethered Citadel trilogy that he accomplished in slow world building over three books. This set of three also promises to be full of twists and turns as we already get a few in book one.
I would recommend this novel wholeheartedly to a fantasy fan. It does not push the genre in new directions, but it does many of the things a fan loves, very well. Great characterisation, a sense of true companionship, world building, battles, and twists. The book is set up nicely for a sequel and does end quite abruptly, but I imagine that most readers will be hankering for book 2 as soon as it hits the shelves.
Written on 2nd February 2024 by Sam Tyler .