Friday, June 14, 2013


Ryan Thayer is your typical high school outcast: mocked, bullied, and constantly in trouble. But when he sees a girl in a house that has been abandoned for years and follows her through a mysterious gateway, he finds himself in a strange world. It is a world fighting an age-old war which has powerful implications, not only for this new land, but for Ryan’s home as well.

Forced to choose between returning home or joining the battle, Ryan decides to fight, knowing that his world’s fate hangs in the balance. He is whisked off to join the Cadyii in their mountain stronghold of Avengarde. There, along with a few new friends, Ryan is taught to use a magical power known as spectra, trained in the art of battle, and even given a magical weapon. But all is not as it seems at Avengarde. The keep has the constant buzz of secrecy around it. And then there is the matter of Ryan’s sword, whose tainted, black blade may be hiding a dark past.

As Ryan struggles through grueling lessons and a teacher who wants to kill him, Ryan has to figure out just what sort of secrets this new world – and his sword – really hold. 

Kindle Edition, 375 pages
Published April 26th 2013
Received from the Author in exchange for honest review.

Where to Find Ryan & the Dark Sword:
Goodreads | Amazon


I'm no stranger to the fantasy genre of fiction but mainly because of my husband. You see, I'm one of the only people in the entire universe who hasn't read any of the Harry Potter series or The Lord of the Rings or really any thing that is remotely fantastical. It's not because I don't like it or am scared of it or dismissive of it; I actually don't know why I haven't read a fantasy novel before--I just haven't. So when we were approached to read and review this novel I thought--'sure, why not?!' 

Okay. Hold on a second. I feel like I don't even know you right now. Haha ;) (TLotR, I'll forgive, because I own it but haven't read it, but HP...*tear*

In all seriousness though, we were very interested in this one, because while we do love our romance novels, like a lot, we also like a lot of other stuff so it seemed fitting that we start including some of that. I was a hardcore young adult fantasy/paranormal reader, but was semi-burned out last year by all of the werewolf/vampire flooding the market (Don't get me wrong, I read a lot of them before I got to that point). Ryan and the Dark Sword caught my interest because it seemed different from that, and it was. I have decided that this for me was a combination of Harry Potter/Narnia/The Lord of the Rings/The Last Airbender all in one. 

In Ryan and the Dark Sword you'll find solid writing, with lots of description and a plot that slowly builds over the course of the novel. Hopefully people don't see these as flaws. In the fantasy genre, it seems, you have to create the world from scratch so there has to be a serious amount of explanation so that readers can follow the what, why, how, and where of what is going on. I guess my first observation would be that if you are looking for a quick read, move on. You need to have time to spend on sinking yourself in this world.

I agree that there was a special attention to detail. 99% of the time I was impressed with the amount of detail there was, and that it was carefully explained where the young adult reader that this is intended for could understand and visualize it without being confusing. I liked this. Other times though, there were details that possibly were not plot moving, but this mostly occurred in the beginning of the book. While his problems at school were necessary to mention, I felt it took a bit to hit a groove with the dialogue at first. Once the basis of the story was established, the pace moved a long  alot better.

So what's the deal with this guy Ryan? Well in our modern world he's your typical mischievous teenager. He'd probably say that all of his actions were provoked and the consequences not always intended because he sees himself as retaliating against the bullies who've picked on him his entire school life. At the outset he's in trouble and for this trouble he gets grounded...and that's how we get to the bulk of the story.

What is up? I am not sure at this point that I know...but we have a sort of, kind of idea. He's 15, and very misunderstood. There is a lot of contention about a part of his hair that grows in pure white and he can't get rid of it, so it makes him a target for the mean kids at his school. We see early, that while maybe those kids deserved it, Ryan is too immature to really deal with what they're doing to him. He retaliates in ways that only he gets caught, and while this isn't the best option I am not sure telling someone would have helped either. This part also makes it pretty believable that he would give up his whole life to this new world and wouldn't be rushing to go back home.

Because of trouble he got into at school, his parents ground him leaving him completely bored. So bored, in fact, that he thinks he sees something suspicious in an abandoned house and sneaks out to investigate. Without giving everything away let's just say that this is where we enter the fantasy world that makes up the rest of the novel.

Or as we like to say...the good parts! Luckily Ryan gets rescued by a family passing by and taken in and sort of teaches him a few ropes of their 'age' as the worlds are called. Here is where a lot of the world building occurs, and where I struggled the most. It is necessary to build a world in a series opener, so I stopped and rebooted and went forward with a mindset of the age group that the story is intended for and things went a ton better from there.

In this new fantasy world, Ryan is asked to help save the world. He agrees and off to training he goes. He meets and makes new friends (perhaps a novelty for him since he felt so friendless in the 'real' world) and begins learning all about the ins and outs of this new world. We see him undertaking challenges both mentally and physically and emotionally that strain his patience but begin building him into a young leader. So my second observation would be that if you have a hard time suspending reality or visualizing more magical type scenes, be prepared to do that with this read.

And this is where my mind went into semi-hyper drive. I really enjoyed this part of the story as he is building a new life, and making new friends, and is able to find things he is good at without much fear of humiliation. The exhausting sword training sessions were intriguing as we get more into the story and were some of my favorite parts. My only niggle of doubt and wanting to know more is I wish that I knew more about how time was spaced out between the two worlds. He is gone for an unforeseen amount of time, and unfortunately we saw nothing of how he is able to contact his partents or what they are doing or if he has a huge national people search going on for him. I am greedy, so of course we needed just a little more information, which I realize is a contradiction to what we've already said...but just laying some of my questions I still have out there.

As the action builds in the last 20%, we begin to see Ryan put all of the training into use as he leaves the safe confines of the training facilities and goes off with his squad for his first off-site patrol. Things happen that push him and his new friends to the brink and then we get to the epilogue..which is where I'll share a final observation. It appears that this is book one of a series and the epilogue alludes to more action in the next book so if you are looking for a finished series, you'll need to be prepared to wait for the rest of the novels to come out.

I was proud to see that some of the qualities that we saw in Ryan in the beginning or even the middle were gone and in it's place a self respecting individual. He is much more aware I think of the greater good and the people around him and that just because it looks fun, it isn't always the smartest thing to try to manipulate the situation and make it into a bad one. (I mean, he did blow up the science lab..)

I know that many of my male, and actually many of my female, students will like and appreciate the details and story of this novel. As a teacher I like the subtle lessons to be found here like-- how to deal with jerks and bullies, how to be a leader, how to know when to speak up or shut up, how to pick your battles and when to be patient, and how to accept the consequences of your actions-- lessons that many of my students could acquire without necessarily even realizing it. I'm sure I'll find myself recommending this book next school year to many of my new students.

While maybe some of the details (like what were his parents thinking of him being gone!) bothered me, I do completely agree that this book will be greatly fitted into the age group that I feel it was meant for, but not necessarily limited to that. I had a lot more favorite moments than not so favorite moments and would definitely qualify this as a guy's guy story. Therefore, no romance to be found! 

Shelley: 3 Stars

Courtney: 3.5 Stars

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