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Five years after abandoning the Sagrada Acedemy (Lord of the White Hell universe), Elezar Grunito has become infamous in the sanctified circles of noble dueling rings for his brutal temper and lethal blade. Men and women of all ranks gather to cheer and jeer, none of them knowing Elezar’s true purpose. But a violent death outside the ring marks Elezar as a wanted man and sends him into hiding in the far northern wilds of Labara.
There, creatures of myth and witchcraft—long since driven from Cadeleon—lurk in dark woods and prowl the winding streets. Soldiers and priests alike fear the return of witch-queens and even demons. Elezar soon learns that magic takes many forms, some too alluring to resist, others too terrible to endure. But just as he begins to find his place in this strange new country, the past he left behind along with his school days returns to challenge him once again.
A lot can happen in five years. Elezar Grunito can attest to that fact, having abandoned his home to pursue a personal vendetta. And to make matters worse, he and former classmate and current friend Atreau are now hunted men. To escape the pursuit of assassins, Elezar and Atreau head to lands only experienced through academy textbooks as emissaries, with a hidden agenda to prevent war.
From the beginning, Ginn Hale doesn’t take the slow route. We start off very abruptly with imprisonment of a crime born of Atreau’s poor choices and lust of women. No introductions are made as these are characters we are familiar with from the Lord of the White Hell books. Starting off quick, we are swept away to the city of Milmuraille.
And this is where the magic begins.
A city wrought with street witches, shapeshifters, and the sealed bodies of mythical creatures in stone and earth, nothing short of Ginn Hale’s magical prose and construction can create something both familiar and original in this fictional world. While Milmuraille is the setting for a majority of the book, we can’t forget the northern Mirogoth forests, which house the Witch Queens and their soldiers (both humans and animals). The following is an example of Hale’s creative addition to this world:
“If stories were to be believed, wethra-steeds were born of split lightning and only came to earth to take up a rider whose soul carried the other half of the lightning strike that had birthed them.”
Asides from the top-notch construction of this fantasy setting, the author gives us the much anticipated insight of Elezar, a supporting character and presence in Lord of the White Hell. We are reminded of Elezar’s deeds in the previous two books. We also learn of new events that puts his past actions in new light, while shaping him to be the person he is today. Elezar was always a big man, but with such a small heart with room enough for very few people in his life. It will take a very special someone to be able to squeeze into Elezar’s insular world.
Perhaps it will take a special witch.
And that’s where Skellan, a witch on a mission of his own, comes in. Taking comfort in the ancient stones of Milmuraille, Skellan is an enigma and curiosity for the readers. Raised from the knowledge and friendship of a sealed away troll and other street witches of the city, Skellan is an interesting counterpart to Elezar. It was definitely a treat as the author shuffles the POV between Skellan and Elezar throughout the book.
The plot was riveting, with a familiar goal (i.e. stopping a war), but an original construct of fantasy. It may seem like different plot lines are created, but the author does a good job making them related into something encompassing.
While I love Champion of the Scarlet Wolf, my biggest complaint was the pacing. While the story started off abruptly, there were definitely chapters that halted the pacing. As an example, there were whole chapters where most of it was spent on conversation between two people, or a group of people. And while this isn’t a criticism, and didn’t affect my rating at all, it is probably something readers of M/M would want to know: the sex is off page.
While not a requirement, there is a Christmas coda that was written, taking place after Lord of the White Hell and before Champion of the Scarlet Wolf. It’s posted online and would be a good prologue featuring Kiram and Javier, but has a nice tie-in to this book.
Overall, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf is another successful book written by Ginn Hale. A great cast of characters, well constructed fantasy, and a city on the brink of war. What more could you want?
Title: Champion of the Scarlet Wolf (Book One)
Author: Ginn Hale
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Purchase Links: Blind Eye Books