To be released on May 4, Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard (ISBN: 978-0062872623) is excellent fantasy adventure. In the best tradition of Raymond E. Feist or David Eddings, Aveyard creates a vibrant world with larger-than-life characters and lots of swords and sorcery, if you’re into that kind of thing (which I am). The pacing is quick without sacrificing description and the dialogue carries characterization forward without being empty exposition. Aveyard’s new world, called Allward, feels lived in and expansive; no matter where the story leads, there always seems to be something else just on the other side of the horizon that we don’t get to see in the story.
Realm Breaker is set in a world that, at one time, was the crossroads for travel between other worlds. The portals that were used by travelers are called spindles. At the time of the story, the locations of spindles in Allward are lost and spindles are considered folk stories. One of the repercussions of losing the spindles is that there are groups of people in the Aveyard’s world who actually came from another world, and are cut off from their ancestral home, who age differently that regular humans. These people, the Elder or Vedera, are considered immortal in Allward, although it is quickly established that an Elder can receive sufficient damage to be killed.
When rumor arises of a rediscovered spindle, a group of Allward’s greatest heros, mortal and immortal, unite to attempt to destroy it. However, the questing party arrives too late and they must fight to survive an army from another world. Andry, a squire to one of the knights on the quest, is one of only two survivors of the quest gone nightmarishly wrong. In fact, for a good portion of the story, Andry thinks he’s the only survivor. The second survivor is one of the Vedera, the near-immortal Domacridhan. Realm Breaker is the story of the fallout from that failed quest as the survivors seek the last descendant of an old race who can summon the power of a mystic sword which can close the spindles.
Aveyard is building a new world in which to play over the course of multiple books. Realm Breaker ends on a cliffhanger and left open for at least one sequel, if not multiple sequels. This isn’t new to Aveyard. She wrote The Red Queen series and is a New York Times bestselling author. I haven’t read The Red Queen series, but now I’m curious to investigate that story. Aveyard writes with an active and descriptive voice, with a pacing that makes the 568 pages disappear with rapidity.
On Aveyard’s website, she describes Realm Breaker as a YA story, which I just don’t understand. In fact, it’s published by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins (HarperCollins, in fact, publishes Raymond E. Feist, but not as YA). Aveyard’s use of language and plot are much more elevated than the YA I have attempted to read in the past; I’m a parent of young adults and some of the books they love lack a certain sophistication in the narrative. Aveyard’s Realm Breaker is on par with the great fantasy novels of the past century, including Stephen R. Donaldson, J.R.R. Tolkien, or Katherine Kurtz. Perhaps it’s considered YA because it doesn’t have explicit descriptions of blood, gore, or sex like you find in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. It certainly doesn’t dumb down language for the sake of making a story acceptable to “young readers.”
For fans of high fantasy, this is a must read. Victoria Aveyard’s Realm Breaker is worthy of placement on a shelf with the best of the genre. In fact, Realm Breaker feels inspired by Feist’s Riftwar Saga; if you’re a fan of that series, this is in your wheelhouse.