The Romance Reviews (Carole)'s Reviews > The Battle Sylph

The Battle Sylph by L.J. McDonald
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4.5 stars out of 5.0 stars

"Fantastic worldbuilding, diverse characters, magic and a magnificent fantasy adventure in a whole new world!"

With the prevalence of vampires and werewolves and demons, L.J. McDonald's unique worldbuilding blew me away. She has created a fantastic world of sylphs and the humans to whom they were bound. The sylphs were elemental spirits (air, water, fire, earth and healing sylphs) and of course, there were the battle sylphs that protected the hive. Sylphs lived in hives with a queen as the leader and she could take one or more battlers as mates. Think bee hive with the queen bee and her drones and worker bees and soldier bees.

Actually, the sylphs originally lived in another world and they were lured over to this Earthlike world (the action mostly take place in the kingdoms of Eferem and Para Dubh) and bound to one human master. The battle sylphs were attracted to the promise of the woman used as a sacrifice, and this woman was to be their queen (their love and mate), but the human man who was to gain the battler would kill the woman and bound the battler to him instead.

Read more about the sylphs.

The characterization is wonderful and unique for the characters being portrayed. Because the story is told from several points of view, we note how the narrative and the conversation differed for each character based on the character's age, background, experience and individual personality and circumstances. This makes for a holistic reading experience, wherein the reader gets to see the world from different sets of eyes.

For example, both Heyou and Solie are young, and we are made aware of this in their individual narration and in their actions. Whereas Leon Petrule as the king's head of security is an adult and seasoned soldier, and this can be seen in the way he acted and make decisions and in his thought processes. Not only that, but he is certainly not a sterotypical villain. He might well be the character that underwent the most radical change in the story.

The pivotal characters in this story are Solie, who defied the sacrificial death appointed to her, and Heyou, the battler who became bound to her.

Solie is seventeen years old, and she is young and sheltered, having never gone beyond her own and her aunt's villages. However, she is taught by her aunt to be strong and independent in the sense that she didn't need a man, if she didn't want one. This served her in good stead when she was captured to be a sacrifice to lure a battler over for the crown prince.

Heyou isn't your common hero as well. Though he is a battler, he is young and untried when he first crossed the gate to be bound to Solie. Yet for all that, he knew his duty is to defend and protect the queen and the hive with all that he has, even to the point of death. I like the part where he had established a bond with Galway, a trapper who had rescued him when Heyou was near death. Because Heyou is young and reminds him of his son, Galway acts like a mentor and father figure to him, something unheard of in the usual relationship between a battler and his master, which usually includes lots of hate.

Both Solie and Heyou did grow some over the course of the book, especially Solie as she needed to adjust to her new role. For all that she's young, Solie is smart, and she knew that she needed help and wasn't too proud to ask for it. Even in her inexperience, she rose to the occasion when needful and that is something to admire. Having such young protagonists who act their age would've taken away much of my enjoyment from the book had it not been for the balance provided by the adult characters surrounding them, like Leon, Galway and the two battlers Mace and Ril.

However, lest I give you a wrong impression, the story doesn't just focus on Solie's and Heyou's romance. No, there is so much more going on, like how they'd unwittingly made an enemy of the king and the possible consequences of that, and about how the sylphs are making a new hive in Eferem and the ways they're going to impact the world. That said, I'm interested to see how Solie and Heyou would have grown over the years, and I'm especially curious to know how Ril's and Lizzie's fate would play out in the next book, The Shattered Sylph.
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