Review: "Reiffen's Choice" by S. C. Butler

While most of my reading is constrained to Science Fiction, I enjoy a good Fantasy story now and again. Authors like Tolkien leave me behind, however, as his genius penned histories of epic proportion and descriptions so detailed that little was left to the imagination. J. K. Rowling's cleverly written Harry Potter series allows for more imagination, yet the first few books felt almost condescending, a tone that's changed in later books as the characters have matured. Reiffen's Choice is a "coming of age" story offering a welcome change of pace from these two extremes of the Fantasy arena.

Reiffen and his mother, Giserre, have taken refuge from Reiffen's uncle Brannis in a lakeside village named Valing. Brannis assumed the crowns of Wayland and Banking after Reiffen's father died, pushing Reiffen aside as the rightful heir. Reiffen is being guarded by a dwarf named Nolo and the "Shaper" Redburr until he is ready to contest Brannis' assumption of the crown. After Reiffen is kidnapped by The Three - the only known Wizards in the world - it is up to Nolo, Redburr and Reiffen's two friends, Avender and Ferris, to rescue him from the dungeons.

While the title alludes to Reiffen as the main character, the story revolves around Avender and Ferris. With the kidnapping of Reiffen, it is up to the children to accompany Nolo and Redburr on a rescue mission. The children are tapped for this responsibility because of their friendship; it must be clear that The Three have not imposed their will on Reiffen via magical means, and the children are expected to raise the alarm if they detect any changes. What starts as a wild and exciting adventure, quickly turns to harsh reality with real life-and-death peril. Nolo and Redburr act as protectors from the more terrible dangers of the world and guides to the children's first forced steps into adult life. After several chapters, the focus will briefly shift to Reiffen's stay with The Three.

I really enjoyed the writing style. While the book is targeted for the young adult, descriptions and dialogue do not blatantly point it out. Descriptions are simple, yet eloquent, and the dialogue is believable without portraying the adults as preachy and aloof. The world is detailed enough to let the imagination run; the appearances of talking otters, for example, feels right within the setting without any explanation, and the dwarves have a few surprises in store that set them apart from other fantasy settings.

Readers who enjoy writers like Raymond E. Feist and J. K. Rowling will not be disappointed by Reiffen's Choice.

Reiffen's Choice: Book One of the Stoneways Trilogy, by S. C. Butler
Published by: Tor Books (September, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0765314770
ISBN-13: 978-0765314772
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

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