Esmay Rosalyne’s Review of Manaborn by A.S. Frederiks
Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This book is scheduled for release on April 6, 2023.
In vibrant pools hidden away by time and jealousy, in bright azure veins upon cavern walls, in the very air itself, emanates the power of Mana, granting powers unique and destructive to those strong enough to wield them.
MANABORN is the story of three such people, unaware of their magical powers. Thrust into perilous adventures, their world unravels as the fate of a kingdom is thrown into flux due to events involving King Aradel himself and his mysterious Magus.
Valory, a hard-nosed teen on the run with her father, searches for her true identity; Sir, a spirited noblewoman, leaves behind a life of nobility and abuse to become a knight; and finally, the carefree Lord Cassian Morrow and his Shieldguard Robert receive a sudden visit from the king.
Bonds between friends and family are tested as their lives intertwine in the shadow of the crown. Danger looms and secrets are brought to light, but one question stands above the rest;
What is honor?
Review of Manaborn
Don’t you just love it when you take a gamble on a book and it ends up being an incredibly pleasant surprise? I went into this book completely blind, obviously hoping to enjoy it, but I wasn’t expecting it to suck me in the way it did. Manaborn is the compelling first book in the Morrow Legacy series and wow, is it a strong and promising start to this series!
This story follows four main characters whose lives and fates are more intricately tied together than you, or even they themselves, could ever imagine. The quiet lives of Lord Cassian Morrow and his Shieldguard Robert are turned upside down when they receive an unexpected visit from the king and his peculiar mage; the young and spirited Sir flees her life as a noblewoman with dreams of becoming a knight; and the feisty Valory is desperately trying to figure out the hidden truths about her identity, which would be way easier if only her father would stop running away from his past. Now, I can hear you thinking: “How are those storylines ever going to weave together?”
Well, that’s part of the magic of this book and you will just have to read it to find out 😉
One of the things I enjoyed most here was trying to figure out how all the puzzle pieces of this story would fit together. From the characters’ backstories, to the mysterious magic, to the way all of these storylines are connected… I just loved the element of mystery that pervades every single aspect of this story.
And when everything did eventually fall into place, it was so incredibly satisfying. The foreshadowing here is expertly done and kept me glued to the page the entire way through, because I was so desperate for answers. The author left enough breadcrumbs for the reader to figure out some twists and turns, but then also dropped in some big reveals that will undoubtedly take you completely by surprise. If you like your books to be unpredictable and full of mystery and intrigue, then you are in for a real treat here!
Another reason why this book worked so well for me is because it is so character-focused. It’s mostly these characters’ personal and emotional journeys that drive the narrative forward, which is one of my favourite types of storytelling.
We get a very close and intimate look into these characters’ lives and minds, so I could very quickly and easily latch onto them. These are very lovable characters for the most part, yet there were also definitely instances where I wanted to give them a good shake and tell them to stop being so naive. But then, that’s exactly what made these characters feel so real and authentic, which only made me love them even more. My favourites were definitely Sir and Valory, I am truly impressed by how well this author wrote these young female characters!
The character dynamics were also simply fantastic, Frederiks truly has a knack for writing believable and genuine relationships. Whether it’s friendships, (found) family bonds, romances or parent/child relationships, I instantly believed in all the connections between these characters. Some of the relationships are wholesome and heartwarming, while others are troubled and painful. And then there are also some relationships that are a messy and bittersweet combination of all of those things, which were of course my personal favourite.
I do have to say that there was one new relationship that got established very quickly and I didn’t fully believe that these characters had such a deep connection after spending only a couple of days together, but I personally could get over that minor nitpick quite easily.
Okay, enough about the excellent character work, there’s plenty more to praise about this story, such as the magic! I was fascinated by the mystifying and mysterious Mana magic and really enjoyed seeing these characters slowly starting to learn about their newfound magical abilities. It was also interesting to see how this source of magic can do more harm than good depending on the wielder’s intentions or skill-level, which really raised the stakes.
Now, I really loved this softer magic system for the most part, but there was one moment of severe trauma for one of these characters that conveniently got ‘solved’ by the use of their magical abilities. To me, it lessened the impact of the situation and I thought it felt a bit unbelievable that this character didn’t struggle more with the repercussions of that harrowing event.
Luckily, that was really the only case in which I didn’t like the handling of a more heavy subject. The rest of the story is full of deep, meaningful themes that are handled with a lot of care and nuance, which made this story so emotionally engaging. I especially enjoyed how themes of honour, love and sacrifice are explored in this book, some of the discussions really struck a chord within me. This story has a lot more emotional depth than I was expecting and I absolutely loved it!
So, overall, I am very impressed by this story and I have a feeling it’s going to stick with me for a long time. This story is unpredictable (in the best way possible) and plays around with your expectations, which really makes it stand out from the crowd.
If you like character-focused fantasy with excellent character dynamics, mystifying and dangerous magic, profound themes, emotionally engaging storytelling and honestly just lots of heart, then Manaborn is the perfect book for you!