The story takes place in the nation of Fynglade, a fantasy land inhabited by giants, elves, men, monsters and mysterious creatures. It begins in the city of Zarakora with an act of betrayal that will bring unexpected consequences for all and for the future of Fynglade.
We then fast forward to fifteen years later, in the neighbouring kingdom of Delmor. The young Fyrelit siblings are preparing for a tournament, of which the eldest, Neleik, is reigning champion. He, along with his brother, Ervine, and much younger sister, Skye, are getting along as best they can in the wake of their parents’ death. Neleik is the only one who fully remembers the event and the involvement of a cloaked man, known as Versalos. The trauma has left him protective and vigilant. He is now the head of the little family; a responsibility he takes very seriously.
During the tournament, Neleik’s worst fears become reality – Versalos returns and kidnaps Skye. Without pausing for thought, Neleik collects Ervine, some supplies, and an unlikely ally in Romahn, his former competitor. Together they tear off to petition the King of Delmor for aide in retrieving Skye.
Here the group experience their first obstacle, which only serves to harden their resolve. Their plight attracts another friend in Kyia, the Princess of Delmor, who finagles her way into their mission as they determine to find out more about Versalos. The four set out from Delmor with purpose, resourcefulness and little experience of the wider world.
It doesn’t take long for them to find trouble and intrigue aplenty. It soon becomes apparent that the situation is much larger than they knew. What started off as a mission to save one little girl, rapidly transforms into an epic quest to retake Zarkora and banish the forces of darkness from the land of Fynglade.
This new quest leads them to a city of magic, a close shave with the pursuing guards of Delmor, an unexpected reunion, and a devastating revelation. Undaunted, the friends forge ahead and continue to pick up information, allies and enemies in their bid to save the nation and Skye. They learn more about their quarry, Versalos, and soon realise that if they are to have any chance against him, it will take much more than willpower.
Their many trials test the companions’ strength and moral fibre and bring to bear the most powerful bonds of family and friendship. Together, they encounter vicious monsters and experience tragedy, loss and triumph. They find that they have friends in the most unusual places and are hunted by some very persistent enemies. Each encounter brings them a step closer to their goal and risks the wrath of Versalos, who is determined to wipe out any that oppose him.
It is hard not to get swept up in the increasingly grand mission of the Fyrelit family. It is an exciting and perilous journey with spectacular escapes and near-misses, unlikely friendships, and tests of faith. The characters are engaging and the final band of friends is well-rounded. They all experience growth during the story and together they display bravery, compassion, integrity, empathy, and selflessness.
The Fyrelit Tragedy is a good opening to a quest series and should please young readers who have enjoyed stories along the lines of Harry Potter, or The Lord of the Rings. As is appropriate for this audience, enthusiasm is high, doubts are overcome and reflection is present but fleeting. The tension ratchets up nicely and there is plenty to distract the group from getting bogged down in lengthy debate. All of the characters are upfront about their intentions and fall clearly into the categories of either good or evil.
The world building is solid with a few interesting parallels to our world. The only glitch for me was in the use of contemporary, real-world language in places but this may not be a problem for others.
The Lochels are in themselves a story of courage and self-belief. Over the years they have generated so much positive publicity for their self-published books, that a publishing company (Hachette Australia) took notice. I imagine that Zarkora is only the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership.
The Fyrelit Tragedy ends on a cliff-hanger and continues with Zarkora: The Lost Kingdom, which is released in Novenmber 2015.