City of Bridges by Andre Jones has all the elements to please a reader of high fantasy; a richly imagined world populated by intriguing creatures and a troubled heroine on a dangerous quest.
Leonie is a despised half-caste, part human and part rrell, with knowledge of her mysterious origin hidden deep in her mind. Rescued from a watery grave as a child, she uses her feline agility, strength, and remarkable powers for self-healing to survive as a thief on the seedy side of a town ruled by a human overlord.
Living up to the expectation of curiosity causing a cat grief sees Leonie tumble paws over whiskers into trouble. An altruistic attempt to save a guild courier leads to a quest to deliver a mysterious book of prophecy to a distant city. Along the way, Leonie and her shapeshifter friend fight off warriors from death-dealing religious sects, hired assassins who persist beyond the inconvenience of death, and ancient monsters who are the natural inhabitants of this fantastic world.
Throw in (friendly) telepathic wyverns, an almost unkillable psionic pacifist who turns rogue, objects of power, powerful humans with a hidden agenda, and start fleeing for your life.
It comes as no surprise that Andre Jones is a long-term fan of classic fantasy game play such as Dungeons and Dragons. His first novel in a planned trilogy has the feel of a traditional quest where the heroine collects allies, earns (or steals) objects of power, and gradually opens up additional skills in order to fulfil prophecy. In typical fashion, Leonie is reluctant to accept her fate is one of significance and focuses on her personal battles.
This is a novel with so many elements competing for page time and the attention of the reader; that it can distract from building a strong relationship with Leonie and her amorphous side-kick, Feiron. The huge range of psionic abilities, magical skills, and objects of power across the diverse races that have been pulled into the world of Yarnik from different planets provides vast opportunities for conflict, and an easy way to resolve any situation when a handy magical element can be incorporated.
For those readers who struggle to keep multiple characters, races, talents, religions and places neatly ordered in a complex new world, the endnotes should be an early read to get a handle on all the elements in this epic fantasy.
Jones builds a detailed world with many aspects that are ripe for exploration in the remainder of the trilogy. For those readers who prefer a standalone story, the author is canny enough to provide hints of future adventure but a clear and satisfying closure of the first story arc. Journey through the City of Bridges to get lost in a fantastic new world, knowing that there is more to look forward to from Andre Jones.
With an evil glow behind her dark eyes, Evlin relentlessly pressed the dagger down. “When I’ve killed you, I’ll take the life from your friend and his pet,” she gloated. “My bug will be overjoyed with the taste of fresh meat. I believe wyvern is a delicacy to them.”
City of Bridges - out now as an audiobook!