The Dagger of Dresnia
by Satima Flavell
(Pub: Satalyte Publishing, 2014)
**I was provided with a ARC copy of this in exchange for an honest review**
The Dagger of Dresnia, Book 1 in The Talisman’s series, is suitable for teens through to adults. Its story is reminiscent in many ways of a fairy tale, though blended with what I would call classic epic fantasy; there are elves, dwarves, humans, demons, battles, magic and intrigue and revenge.
The arch villain is a demon with whom the main character, Queen Ellyria, makes a deal in order to save her family. Of course, you’ll remember plenty of fairy tales where characters make such foolish deals and that the price for it, which this demon says he will claim at a later date, will be high – people’s lives. There’s the whole premise and this doesn’t make the story at all unusual. As a reader you’re in familiar territory and it’s clear where the story will go, but this book is well worth reading.
This is not a book which moves at ripping pace, yet I was surprised at how much I truly enjoyed it. The reason for this is Flavell’s writing. The art of this story lies in her characters and her choice to focus the novel on an older heroine and the supporting cast of women. Flavell’s heroine, whose prowess lies in magic rather than physical fighting, is middle aged – that makes this unusual.
The world Flavell paints, particularly the domestic world, is as intricate as her characters. The detail in the writing allows the reader to visualise this world and how these people live. You know their hopes, dreams, and worries; the result is that you actually start to care about them very much. Particularly the main character, who cares greatly for the fate of those around her, as if they were all her children. There is a deeply maternal aspect to the story – and this is portrayed as a source of strength for Queen Ellyria in particular. While we often see heroines in fantasy who are kick-arse warriors – and there’s nothing wrong with that – I found it refreshing that Flavell’s heroine is not one in this sense.
Each of the women is struggling and fighting for their families in whatever way they can. They are also fighting for their positions within society and for freedom from some of its constraints in regards to their perceived roles. Even among the affluent women, Flavell clearly illustrates their lack of real power in a male dominated world and their cleverness in obtaining their goals within this social system.
I was lucky enough to receive an ARC copy of the sequel, The Cloak of Challiver (review coming soon), and read that immediately after The Dagger of Dresnia and enjoyed it as much.
This series is classic epic fantasy – intrigue, elves, dwarves, sorcery and battles, blended with fairy tale. Yet The Talisman series is more than this. It is a tale of women fighting for their families, their homes and their places in society. This is an intricate world, and Flavell’s writing weaves you into the heart of it.