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Review: The Tome of Haren by Damien Francis

“They stopped, looking down at the Tome. There was no sign of dust atop its surface; it looked marvellous, the purple, red and gold flittering before their eyes. The book seemed alive.”

Praise for The Tome of Haren, the first volume of The Keep Chronicles Series!

The Nation of Narean has war approaching its doorstep. It’s chosen protectors know as The Keepers haven’t been seen for over 150 years. Aeidor has been an orphan since birth, scraping by in the slum district of the Nation’s capital city of Demres.

One day a champion of legend appears and claims Aeidor is marked to be the next Keeper of Narean. Joined by other powerful heroes the group sets off to locate the long lost artifact, The Tome of Haren. The magical book has the power to tip the upcoming war in the holders favor.

However, Aeidor and the company aren’t the only ones after the Tome. Dark forces trail their every move and are willing to put the entire Nation to the torch to secure the fabled artifact. Limits are tested, boundaries pushed, and secrets revealed as darkness lurks around every corner.

Author Damien Francis’ storytelling in on full display in this epic dark fantasy debut! I had vastly underestimated what I was getting myself into when I started reading. This book will grab you by the throat and never let go. If anything, it will just squeeze tighter and throttle you as the action keeps piling up.

While this work is a dark fantasy, it’s more on the “cleaner” side in terms of explicit sexual content and swearing.  However, blood and gore, violence, torture, murder, and trauma are on the table and Damien does an excellent job of incorporating it into his story. The prose and writing are highly engaging.

Additionally, the author is able to make you feel sympathy for characters you shouldn’t be rooting for. There are also many vivid descriptions of death in this book that I have now added to my “Ways I Do Not Want To Go” list.

Like all good slow burn fantasies, you need to give The Tome of Haren at least 100-150 pages to set the tone. The book takes time to build the characters, explain the history, and let the beginning events feel natural. Damien does an excellent job of this and allows his story to flow at a natural pace. When necessary, time jumps are used to add to the plot of the story instead of trying to advance it.

Once we have a general idea of the world building, our characters set out on their journey to find the fabled Tome. Here is where the pace picks up and things honestly get stressful. Once you hit THAT section of the book it’s almost like you don’t have time to take a breath, relax, or let your guard down.

There are two main concepts that I loved about the writing style:

  • The first is the ability to write characters in a logical sense. This story has characters that, well, kind of suck at what they do in the beginning. This was so refreshing to read, as some of our younger characters have so much to learn and overcome before they can think of becoming a formidable opponent. This aspect allows the writing to feel more realistic and makes our characters’ goals more exciting when they are achieved.
  • The second concept that I enjoyed is that none of our characters are “invincible”. Nobody is immortal and anyone can slip up at any moment. It provides an extremely sobering experience. I have read books in the past where characters are untouchable. That does not happen in this work and I love how it adds a new level of dread and stress.

In finals thoughts: This book was fantastic. A true classic dark fantasy for lovers of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Martin. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it, from the prose to the full journey. I can’t wait for the next installment of The Keeper Chronicles, and the (hopeful) return of one of my favorite side characters!

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