Touchstone is the beginning of a fantasy journey quite different to the traditional tale. While it is set in the medieval style world full of magic and monsters it takes a unique path in the way the various races and magic are presented.
In this world theaters are a place of magic where bands perform true wonders on stage, the most talented earning fame and fortune wherever they travel. This is a world that is still recovering from a cataclysmic magical war, one that has altered the people forever. Cayden Silversun is our principle protagonist and leader of the theater troupe known as Touchstone. Part elf, part fae and part wizard, he takes the role of playwright and source of the groups power. As we join Silversun he is in dire need of a new "glisker" - a key member who manipulates the magical flow and creates the all important illusions. As if drawn by fate, talented glisker Mieka Windthistle falls into their lap and it seems as if their prayers have been answered, even if he does seem more than he appears.
The story follows this troupe as they seek fame and fortune, driven by Cayden as he tries to avoid visions of a dark and dangerous future.
While there has clearly been a major war not too far in the past, at first glance the world does seem quite bright and high spirited however just below the surface there is a dark and menacing tone that speaks of cruelty and casual malice. The world building is pretty impressive and if you appreciate a story that builds slowly and offers a rich level of detail then this series will be for you.
It is clear that Touchstone is just part of a larger story and I can't see it being enjoyed as much as a stand-alone, there isn't enough action for that and the ending is a little abrupt. Instead it details the beginnings of a journey, albeit a very promising one full of magical wonder and written in the authors usual, gifted prose.
I love the way that races are portrayed in this book and it's one of the most original ideas I've read in a high fantasy novel for quite some time, the way that they intermingle is incredibly creative and results in characters with some unique and unusual abilities. Just about every time of fantastic race is included and yet it doesn't feel over-the-top or derivative in the slightest. This rich mix of sub-race also helps to create some interesting, very different characters that encourage you to read more, happy to hitch along for the ride.
Touchstone is different enough to stand out from the crowd, it's got a distinct style and is set in a rich world that really is unique - enough to warrant picking up on its own. Combine this with the beginnings of a rewarding story and you end up with a highly promising start to what looks to be a rich and vibrant fantasy series.
Written on Friday 1st February 2013 by Antony.
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