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When a young apprentice makes a mysterious elixir from a recipe in an old book, she's suddenly the talisman for a daring Gamesman - and the weapon in the conspiracy against a prince.

Marra had never heard of Birr Elixir.

But when Drail of the Hand of Victory saw the words in an old book, she agreed to make it - even lacking the right ingredient.

And after drinking it, the Hand of Victory defeated a Skullan team, something no one had done before. Now Drail walked the path his grandsire had walked, and Marra was offered a place as Brista, his potions mistress. Full of self-doubt, she took the chance to escape her slave-like existence.

When she found a way to wake the mysterious sleeper, Marra wondered if she deserved the title after all.

But with Tryst's waking, ill luck and bad things suddenly dogged their tracks. Drail, being a man of action, saw only the good in people. Marra lacked his faith, but was frozen by her own timidity. When the time came to confront these enemies, would Tryst stand with them or against them?

Would it make any difference?

196 pages, Paperback

First published May 31, 2013

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About the author

Jo Sparkes

7 books39 followers
A former member of the Pro Football Writer’s Association, Jo was the first to interview Emmitt Smith when he started with the Arizona Cardinals. She’s written commercials, done interviews, staffed on a local children’s television show, and taught screenwriting at the Film School at SCC. Her awards include the Kay Snow for best screenplay, three B.R.A.G. Medallions, and a silver IPPY.

Just moved to Plymouth, England - and loving it.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews
Profile Image for Nicua.
Author 5 books16 followers
June 3, 2013
Marra, a young healer’s apprentice, finds herself the Brista (special potion maker) of a group of men who play a dangerous and hazardous sport. Drail, their leader, asks Marra for a special potion to give them extra strength and speed as they face the fearsome Skullan team – and Marra finds herself trying to make the secret Birr Elixir. Marra must overcome her doubt and believe in the hope of a new future.

Drail and his group of men save Marra from an unsavoury man who has bad intentions and at the same time they save another man from the shopkeeper. The young, tall man is stuck in a deep sleep, induced by some powerful magic or drug. Bad intentions are obvious and they must tread with caution as they travel across the land to take part in more tournaments, all the while being chased by men who for some reason want the sleeping man dead.

Tryst wakes and Marra finds herself torn between doing the right thing and being able to keep her place as Drail’s Brista and forge a new life for herself. Matters become more and more complicated and Marra must make a choice and let her inner strength really show through.

This is a wonderful story that just sucked me in from the first few pages. There are secrets and delicious intrigue that keep you guessing. It is rather short, but that does not detract at all from the ability of the narrative to grow and mature successfully. The characters are true to themselves and well developed, dialogue is smooth and the book is a well-rounded, charming read. Skilfully written, colourful and exciting, I enjoyed the Birr Elixir immensely and looking forward to the next book.
Profile Image for Mommasaysread.
78 reviews53 followers
June 15, 2013

By Momma on June 14, 2013

The Birr Elixir is Jo Sparkes debut fantasy novel. I really enjoyed this book as will fantasy fans of all ages. There is something for everyone. While this book does have an awesome heroine it isn’t a “chick book”. There are big burly competitive men and none of them are clamoring for the girl! That is a refreshing twist. Although I can’t make any promises for the next book in the series, but there isn’t romance in this book. Only friendship and camaraderie!

The story is solid and fresh. The character development is wonderful and you will find yourself invested in the characters. The story is never slow, even though the main characters are walking through desert, you don’t feel like you just walked six hundred miles in the sand and heat with them when you arrive at the destination. What I’m saying is the dessert is well done!

Again, a great novel, a great story, well written, fast paced and great for all ages. I will absolutely have my teenage girls read this!

Momma Says Read This Book!

What does Momma Think?

Momma gives The Birr Elixir (The Legend of the Gamesment) (Volume 1) by Jo Sparkes 4 cookies!
Profile Image for Brian Marshall.
Author 5 books12 followers
September 22, 2020
Elixir? Indeed!

When I first downloaded Jo Sparkes’ “The Birr Elixir”, I was expecting a YA fantasy, a genre where the perceived sophistication of the target audience can sometimes serve as an excuse for the quality of the writing itself.

But whether you’re just out of diapers or signing up for Medicare, you’ll find this book an unqualified delight. Without a trace of condescension or any pretension on her part, Sparkes presents a rollicking tale in a world that’s fully imagined. Even more impressively, she weaves three separate plot lines together, in a narrative that explores female empowerment, male camaraderie and shadowy palace intrigue. The pace is lively, the characters feel lived-in, and the dialog never comes off as labored; just a compelling story, skillfully told, without a trace of puffery.

Still, I feel obliged to pass on a warning. The book is no stand-alone. Which means that, like me, you’ll probably get hooked and end up reading the entire trilogy. Still, I can think of far worse ways to pass the time in the world we live in today.
Profile Image for Carolyn Young.
Author 14 books22 followers
March 13, 2015
The Birr Elixir is a very engaging fantasy tale. The characters are well developed, the story is quite creative and well written, and it moves at a quick pace that makes you want to keep reading. The author is excellent at description, and I could visualize the places and people quite clearly. I can still close my eyes and visualize myself as Marra experiencing new places that I’ve never seen before!

The only criticism I have is that the ending lacked resolution and left many unanswered questions, which seems intentional because there is another book on the way. I was left feeling that this book, however, was cut short and should have gone a bit further than it did. That said, it was very enjoyable to read and I would highly recommend it. The author is very skilled writer.
Profile Image for Leigh Holland.
Author 2 books17 followers
May 27, 2017
The Birr Elixir by Jo Sparkes, 196 pages, Oscar Press, May 31st, 2013, Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Adventure/Sword and Sorcery. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.
The Birr Elixir is a Young Adult Fantasy novella that has wider appeal. Jo Sparkes masterfully draws together elements of action, adventure, sports, fantasy, and sorcery in a likeable, exotic world. The Birr Elixir is the first installment in “The Legend of the Gamesmen” series. It is the winner of the Silver Ippy award and the BRAG Medallion.
Marra’s mentor recently passed away, leaving her a book containing potion recipes. When the sportsman Drail spies the recipe for the Birr Elixir in the book, he must have it. Marra makes a batch for Drail and his team. They win the Comet game against the Skullan team, a feat which has never been accomplished. The team takes Marra with them and they head to the main tournament at the port city. Marra awakens a stranger, Tryst, from an enchanted slumber. He, too, is anxious to get to the port city. As a master of the sport Comet, Tryst mentors the team. It will take more than magical elixirs to win the tournament: they’ll need skill, too. However, evil men offer Marra a rare herb she needs to make the Birr Elixir. In exchange, she must give another sleeping potion to Tryst and allow the men to recapture him. If she fails, they promise to harm her. What will Marra choose?
Jo Sparkes weaves timeless themes into this magical tale, such as good versus evil, the importance of loyalty, and refusing temptation for the greater good. My favorite character was Marra. She is quiet, keeping her thoughts and opinions to herself. Marra has lived a rough life, yet secretly dreams of being so much more. Marra feels affection for Drail; she regards him as the man who redeemed her from a life of near-slavery under a cruel shopkeeper. She is a genuinely good person at heart.
I enjoyed reading The Birr Elixir. I was whisked away to a land that was at once both imaginative and believable. The characters were interesting and unique. The plot is well designed and unfolds quickly while creating an atmosphere of suspense. The fictional sport Comet is dynamic, fun, and energetic, much like a Quidditch match. The Gamesmen storyline creates a mood much like the Heath Ledger film “A Knight’s Tale”. I’d recommend The Birr Elixir to readers who enjoy Fantasy and Action Adventure genres.
Profile Image for Gemma Feltham.
32 reviews3 followers
August 2, 2013
Summer has finally arrived and with it comes holidays lying on the beach with a good book or e-book. To start my summer get away early I escaped into the fictional world within The Birr Elixir, the first book in a series titled The Legend of The Gamesmen penned by Jo Sparkes.

First impressions are good, the prologue is strong and offers important detail for the rest of the novel rather than just being a large and unnecessary paragraph. Continuing onto the first chapter Sparkes sets a comfortable pace which is consistent throughout and an easy flow of events, revelations and character development. There appears to be some clumsiness in the sentence structure of this first chapter, but the further you read this is rectified and the writing becomes much stronger; subsequent chapters are much better.

As the plot thickens it becomes increasingly clear that there is much more to this novel than first appears- magic, adventure, action and a prince it’s got a bit of everything! On an aesthetic level I found the cover of this novel rather dark and foreboding- which made me think that the plot would be much darker than I found it to be.

Moving on, as the reader continues to read The Birr Elixir they will slowly get to grips with Sparkes’ characters. My favourite character name of course belongs to ‘Snark’, one of Sparkes’ villains, whose name I have taken to appreciate as a tribute to Lewis Carroll’s poem The Hunting of the Snark. In keeping with the style and pace of the novel, the development of key characters Marra and Drail is suitably consistent. Most interesting is how Sparkes patiently carves and depicts Marra’s life up until the present. Upon reaching the half-way point in the novel, a reader may find it difficult to determine whether or not Marra’s story so far is happy or sad. At this point, given the events thus far and the parts of her past which have already been revealed, I would say it is at a relatively happy medium- making her more relatable and believable in the minds of the reader, but she’s not so predictable as to run the risk of her becoming a boring and lesser character in subsequent titles.

Sparkes has successfully presented her readers with a well-balanced selection of characters with a variety of backgrounds and individual stories to tell. The focus on the sport featured in this book at first took me by surprise. Reminiscent of quidditch from the Harry Potter novels, rather than detracting from the novel it adds a further dimension to the characters and locations presented to the reader; and I have to say it is the most exciting sport I’ve read about in a piece of fiction since being introduced to quidditch. Sparkes also offers readers an intriguing and exotic setting for this fantasy novel. ‘The flats’ and desert lands are described in such a way that draws in the reader, as they are reminiscent of the lands of Ancient Egypt as seen in popular films like The Mummy and Indiana Jones.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this light-hearted fantasy. The writing is light and easy to read, the plot clear and easy to follow. I would definitely recommend to both young and old fantasy fans. I for one thoroughly look forward to reading the rest of books in The Legend of The Gamesmen series.

© Gemma Feltham 2nd August 2013
49 reviews9 followers
January 26, 2015
Don’t you just love it when you take on a novel and author you’ve not read before and find a hidden gem. Thats what this novel should be all about. Jo Sparkes, has created a mythical realm where two races the Truemen and the Skullans co-exist, magic and potions are real, and the whole place is on the brink of a war. Its in the midst of all this, that we meet Marra, an apprentice in what can best be described as an apothecary shop.

When we first meet Marra, our first description of her is as follows…

Marra’s dark red hair was long, and she spent a lot of time brushing the sand out. Some thought she was vain, and perhaps she was about the one thing that proclaimed she wasn’t born in San Cris. But long hair was a strength, the strength of warriors. Ans for Marra, it made her feel safer.

Marra is wonderfully written throughout the novel as she overcomes her self doubt about her abilities, and finds she is much more capable and quick than she thought. Both her compassion and underlying strength make her delightful to read, Sparkes could not have made a better choice for a main character.

Also in this piece is Tryst, a crown prince who’s been abducted and put to sleep using some unknown means. It’s only when Marra manages to wake him, that we discover much about him, and most of that he keeps to himself, not allowing his secrets to be revealed to his fellow Gamesmen or Marra. A boy, who is getting his first taste of the world, and seeing much of what his father encouraged him to learn first hand.

You wish to rule the Skullan people without ever setting foot outside Missea? Without talking to them in their villages, standing beside them on their ships? You wish to decide the fate of Truemen without ever seeing who they are, how they live?

Tryst is equally well written and plays out well against the character of Marra.

Jo Sparkes has put a lot of thought into this piece, and the development of a whole realm, complete with sports, different races, history, and herbal potions, as well as a brilliantly written plot, could not have been a small undertaking. There is a lot packed into this piece, at only 175 (approximately) pages, I was worried there would not be space to pull it all together. But she did!!

If I were to nitpick at all, I would say my only struggle with this book, was that I felt I could not get my bearings for the first chapter or two, as it wasn’t readily clear where or when this book is set…My advice? Don’t worry about it, let the sand sweep you up into the story, and enjoy the ride. This one is good and will get you where you want to go.

This is one of those, sit back with your favorite herb tea, curl up in your favorite afghan, on a long cool evening at the cottage, and enjoy. Its length, almost allows it to be read in one sitting. It is just what it seems, a wonderfully written fantasy that will draw you into the story, and leave you with a smile on your face (unless you are as impatient to get to book two as I am). Let Jo take you on a magical adventure into her wonderfully created world and I’m betting she does not disappoint.
Profile Image for E.M. Cooper.
Author 10 books43 followers
January 20, 2015
I was drawn to 'The Birr Elixir'(The Legend of the Gamesmen) by its striking cover. After a few chapters I was captivated by the storyline, characters and dialogue. Jo Sparkes has depicted the characters skilfully and their voices are distinct and recognisable.

Nineteen-year-old Prince Tryst from the Skullan race on the Great Continent sets out on his epourney or coming of age journey. After being betrayed, he is captured and carried over the ocean to the Waverley Continent by the villains of the tale. He is rescued by a group of young men from the Trumen race, including the charismatic Drail, who play Comet, a popular and fiercely contested game that rewards winners with fame and fortune. He also encounters the most intriguing character, Marra, a clever and resourceful desert girl who is also a gifted potions’ apprentice whose mistress has recently died. With the help of Marra’s Birr Elixir, the group bands together to challenge the most successful teams on the continent, including those from the physically imposing and feared Skullan race.

Jo Sparkes is an excellent and gifted storyteller with keen observational skills. She builds a convincing and fascinating world with original flora, fauna and geography, and develops authenticity by using interesting language and cultural details. The Birr Elixir is an engrossing story and I recommend it for lovers of fantasy of all ages. Readers should prepare to be immersed in a rich and believable world that will inevitable leave you needing to read book two of the series, ‘The Agben School’.

Profile Image for K.S. Ferguson.
Author 7 books24 followers
March 11, 2015
Author Sparkes has written an excellent short fantasy story. The plot has a recognizable beginning, middle, and end. Groundwork is begun for the trouble ahead in the next book. Characters change because of the action in the story.

And the characters are realistic, interesting, likeable, and flawed. They are well-differentiated from each other and definitely people I want to travel with in the future. The villains are perhaps a touch stereotyped, but we're only meeting the second-string henchmen in this installment, so their lack of subtle shading can be forgiven.

These characters occupy a fascinating world described with enough complexity to make it real without slowing the story with overblown adjectives. The pacing is just right, moving steadily forward but giving the reader quick breaks to recover.

If you're looking for a new fantasy author to follow, you can't go wrong with Sparkes. I highly recommend this book as an entertaining read. One word of caution. As soon as you're finished, you'll want the second in the series.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review (and I'm very glad I did).
Profile Image for P.J. McDermott.
Author 11 books26 followers
April 25, 2015
I enjoyed The Birr Elixir very much, and I am sure other fans of fantasy will enjoy it too. Jo Sparkes writes exceptionally well, providing clear descriptions, good dialogue and a well paced story that is very easy to read. My view is that the story (part one in a trilogy) might have been more richly developed in two ways - the desert setting and the backstory of the main character, Marra. She is intriguing and likeable and grows on you the further into the story you get. I am hoping in the next two parts we will find out much more about her past and her feelings in some depth. The ending does leave you hanging a bit.
Having made these observations, I really did enjoy it. I gave this book four stars because I became involved with the plot, reading it in one sitting, the action/sport scenes were fast and furious (although the sport itself didn't appeal, reminding me of the 1975 film Rollerball) and there is tension and mystery aplenty.
Fans of Heroic Fantasy (particularly younger fans) should grab themselves a copy of Jo Sparkes' The Birr Elixir, confident they will enjoy a good read.
Profile Image for Karen.
Author 3 books22 followers
July 27, 2014
The book introduces you to Marra, a young apprentice in a herb shop. Drail, a comet player, asks for an energy potion. Her instructor, Britta, is dead, and she brews a potion similar to one in Britta’s Book. Drail’s team wins, and they rescue her from her new boss. It is a story of new beginnings, moral values, and belief in one’s capabilities.

With The Birr Elixir, Jo Sparkes has created a fantasy story of unusual travel companions, a global ball sport and important contests, rivalry between two nations, and intrigue. The Birr Elixir is an entertaining, gripping, and fast-paced read, making you want to read more. I was drawn into the story right away. I felt quite close to the travel companions and their experiences. All characters were believable, still leaving room for the readers’ imagination. The Birr Elixir is a great story for fantasy and sports lovers. The Birr Elixir is the first book of The Legend of the Gamesmen series. The second book in this series, The Agben School, will certainly be one of my next reads.

This is a book to read again.
Profile Image for T.A. Bratcher.
Author 2 books4 followers
June 6, 2014
The Burr Elixir a must read!

Finding a good fantasy novel is difficult, like digging for diamonds. Yet occasionally, just occasionally, you will find that rare diamond when you least expect it. The Burr Elixir is not merely a good read; a diamond of a book that you treasure forever. I highly recommend this book to my friends and fellow fantasy loving readers. I suggest keeping an eye out on what Jo Sparkes brings us next.
152 reviews
October 14, 2013
i wish i could win this book... i loveeee the plot and can't wait to read it... :D
Profile Image for Phil Matthews.
490 reviews2 followers
October 1, 2019
Pretty darn good

A new game is invented for this title. There is an interesting plot with strong characters. Interviewing Emmet "They're just dogs" Smith is nothing positive for me.
182 reviews
March 3, 2020
To prove yourself.

This is more than a tale of one hero, but a group trying to find out who they are and where they stand. A very quick read, but intensely satisfying.
Profile Image for Colleen Chesebro.
Author 12 books71 followers
January 2, 2016
*The author provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review which follows*

In the land of Missea – under Skullan rule

King Bactor’s son Tryst, must undertake his first epourney in order to become a man to fulfill his destiny of becoming the future King of the Skullan people and all Trumen. Since a prince’s epourney is undertaken with a best friend, Tryst leaves with three of his best friends, Baldar, Mauric, and Jason. When it is determined that Mauric is ill and cannot travel, Kellan one of the prince’s lesser companions goes in his stead. Now, the adventure begins!

In the City of San Cris, one of the Sandy Towns…

A young apprentice potion maker, named Marra, works in the potion shop of her dead mistress, under the care of Snark, her mistress’ evil brother. Marra’s training was to include, “… learning the power of herbs, the alchemy of powders and potions to heal and enhance…” (pg. 9). After the death of Mistress Britta, Marra’s training stalls under the cruel care of Snark.

Until one day, when the mysterious Drail, a legendary gamesman, comes to the shop begging Marra to make a special potion for him and his crew of men set to play against the Skullan gamers. Marra agrees to make the potion, called “The Birr Elixir,” and Drail and his team win, believing the potion is responsible for their success.

Drail returns to the shop where he witnesses Snark beating Marra, who did not believe she had brewed the elixir that helped the Truman beat the Skullan’s at the game. After taking care of Snark and knocking him out cold, Drail invites Marra to accompany him and his team so that she can make more of the Birr Elixir for them.

A new life

Marra agrees to leave the only home she has ever known to follow Drail and his men as their Brista. As she is gathering her things to leave, she spots an unconscious man on the floor of the shop. Not wanting to leave the man to Snark’s mercy, Drail decides to take the man with them.

Marra realizes that the man is under a deep spell. Along the road, she works hard gathering herbs and preparing potions to heal the young man. Finally after many days, the man awakens and says his name is Tryst…


As Jo Sparks debut novel, this book has the potential to be a great story and series. I loved the richness of the characters and enjoyed the interactions between them. Many of the apt descriptions of the desert towns reminded me of the book, “Dune,” by Frank Herbert.

However, I was left with so many unanswered questions as to where the story was going that I had to go back and reread various passages to make sure that I followed the story. I felt like there was an attraction growing between Tryst and Marra, although Drail seemed to care deeply for the girl also. There are few clues in this book to shed any light on their relationship.

I would say the main attraction of the story is the “games” themselves. The “game” appears to be played in an arena with two opposing teams. In the words of the author,

“It is a wild game with few rules. Players wore leather vests to protect themselves, but in truth, the decorated material was more to mark the teams for the spectators than any real padding.” (P. 17)

At the inner circle in the arena, a line is drawn in the sand by a judge. It is forbidden for the teams to cross the line until the judge allows it. There is much jockeying for the balls by both team members. There are four leather balls that need to be dropped into a cone shaped area in order to score points, which are determined by the judge. Each ball contains special markings which determine the number of points each ball is worth. As contact sports go, I envisioned the game to be a combination of football and hockey with players participating in a game to the death in order to win, if necessary.

If you love the excitement of a fast paced game and the mystery and intrigue of a fantasy world, you will enjoy this book as much as I did. I do hope in the next sequel, the author will shed more light on where the story is leading. Right now, the possibilities are endless.

Character Believability: 4
Flow and Pace: 4
Reader Engagement: 4
Reader Enrichment: 4
Reader Enjoyment: 4
Overall Rate: 4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Vaisakhi.
22 reviews23 followers
September 1, 2013
I will read it today!
Hell, I have so much work; I will surely read it tomorrow!
It has been a week!!! I am starting sure today.

And that today didn’t come for four more weeks. But when it finally came I skipped my lunch hour cause I didn’t want to leave the story unfinished. Not that I had to finish it, but I was scared that if I leave the book now and for some reason I can’t resume reading it soon it would drive me crazy. That was the power of “The Birr Elixir” by Jo Sparkes. A fellow blogger had posted information about this book and after I read it I just needed the book. Thank you so much Jo for letting me review the book.

The Book begins with the Skullan Prince Tryst and his meeting with his father. He sets off on a journey to explore his lands and connect and understand his people. Around the same time a young girl named Marra is made to work in a small herb shop by the evil brother of her now deceased Mistress. She was the only apprentice her Mistress ever accepted and before she died she gave Marra her book of portions – A book she specifically asked Marra to keep away from her brother Stark.

Marra’s world transforms totally when Drail the Leader of the Hand of Victory asks her to brew a powerful portion to help them win a game called COMET and Marra brews the Birr’s Elixir. When Drail and his team achieve the unfathomable feat of defeating Skullans he decides to take Marra as his Brista. But when he comes to take Marra with him to the faraway lands they find an unconscious man in the shop and Drail decides to take the man along with them. The sleeping man is under an unnatural sleep spell that Marra manages to break with her skills during the journey. But who is this man? What is Marra going to do as she was just an apprentice and not a portions Mistress but now is Drail’s Brista? What will the journey change in Marra’s life, a girl who had never left her desert town. And who is this unconscious man?

The book is a total roller coaster ride of the world Jo has created. Also the mystery of Tryst and the fox boot person looms over the entire story. The narrative pulls you totally into the world of Marra and the description of the Comet game is very vivid. The fast pace of the book keeps you hooked till the very end and as this book is the first book of the series it leaves you yearning for more and leaves a lot of questions unanswered for the readers to torment their grey cells. The book covers everything from magic to adventure to drama. And the story of the characters is strong and not just happy or sad.

The book is very fast paced and involving and Jo’s strong narrative keeps you totally engrossed in the book.
The description of the game Comet is just amazing and our imaginary horses can actually sketch the whole scenario while reading.
The Characters are strong and very well used. I particularly loved the character of Drail and Stark.
The way the plot thickens is very intriguing. Literally, loved every bit of it.

The description of the areas they were travelling to could have been more. That would have made the land more authentic and readers could connect well.
The resemblances – Comet with Quidditch, Continents and lands with Game of thrones – Westeros. Though not the fault of the Author, avid fantasy readers would directly make the connection and may find that to be a negative point about the book.

Overall it is an amazing book, a four out of five. Light, fast paced, easy to follow fantasy. An enjoyable read for both the young and the old fantasy readers. And as far as I am concerned, the only thought I have right now is “When is the next book coming?”
Profile Image for Rubin Johnson.
Author 4 books11 followers
March 12, 2015
The Birr Elixir by Jo Sparkes is a short fantasy novel. In general, it's well edited with lots of interesting and colorful characters. A prologue introduces Prince Tryst. Chapter 1 brings in the female main character, Marra, and the skilled gamesman, Drail. The story starts on the day of a very important game for Drail. Marra has a role and the plot begins moving at a good pace that the novel maintains. Overall, my rating was between okay and like. I'm rounding up to like.

Several aspects of the storytelling made it harder for me to enjoy the story. The first was the writer's choice of point of view. By switching the point of view character so often, it became harder to identify with any specific character. Additionally, there were a number of small elements that lessened my experience of this book. One race was the Skullan and the other was the Trumen, but sometimes it was Truman. It took me a while to understand it was a typo and not some designation of number, or something more subtle.

Unfortunately, for me, the story seemed incomplete. Perhaps, this is a set up for the next book, but I felt that there were too many questions left unanswered for a book sold separately. For much of the book we know something bad has happened to a main character but we never learn why, even though exposed to the point of view of a villain. I'm still unclear on the age of Marra as an apprentice could be as young as 12. This made it harder to evaluate the actions of several other characters as my evaluation would be different depending on Marra's age.

In my opinion, the best part of the story is the world building. I especially like the invented game Comet, a combination of lacrosse, soccer, and quidditch. The game required athleticism, skill, and strategy. The author describes multiple games, including the actions of the athletes as well as their mental machinations. Although this provided an opportunity to show the characters, it wasn't enough to make me connect with any of them. The game has aspects of chance. As realistic as that may be, it was less than satisfactory for me as a reader, when chance (as written by the author) decided various outcomes more than the actions of the characters.

Nagging doubts still cross my mind about the notion one can/should consume a supplement to enhance one's athletic performance. In today's world, those would be considered performance enhancing drugs, a cause for concern. Early in the book, I projected that in the final game it would become clear that the elixir had no real effect, and that it was indeed the player's raw skill and will that governed their performance. I was wrong. Read the story to see the writer's interesting twist.

I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Michael O'Gara.
Author 45 books11 followers
September 16, 2013
This is a fun read for those who like fantasy. Jo Sparks is definitely a talented writer and The Birr Elixir is an entertaining story. The character development is solid, the story line is interesting, the book is well paced and the dialogue is good but this book does have a “fatal flaw” so read on.

Marra, the heroine, is an apprentice potion maker. Her mistress has died before Marra can complete her training. As a result of her mistress’s death, she is left in the care of Snark, her mistress’s evil brother. Marra senses this will not end well.

An unusual customer comes to the potion shop and Marra makes a potion for an athletic team. They believe the potion is responsible for their winning so the team’s leader offers Marra a way out of her predicament; she will travel with the team as their potion maker. Marra’s leaving is complicated when she discovers an unconscious man in the back of the shop. The honorable men of the team reluctantly take the unconscious man with them. The adventure begins.

Be warned this is a serial (a story in parts) rather than a series (a number of self-contained and complete books written one after another with the same characters). This was the “fatal flaw” and disappointment with the book; a lack of having a truly complete self-contained story. There are too many “loose ends”. The matter of why the unconscious man ended up in the shop and why others want him captured alive is never resolved. It is obvious a nefarious plot is afoot but it is never revealed. It seems that is for another book. The reader is “left hanging” and that’s not good.

The story telling is definitely of five star quality but I cannot give the book five stars because in my opinion “The Birr Elixir” is not a complete story. It seems meant to entice readers to buy a follow up book to find out what happens.

Note: I was provided a review copy for an honest review by the author.
Book link: http://www.amazon.com/Birr-Elixir-Leg...
Profile Image for Emily.
339 reviews32 followers
January 4, 2014
The prologue drew me into this book right away and I finished it within a few hours because I literally could not put it down. With such a short synopsis, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but it was enough to attract my interest and the cover was definitely intriguing.

While I was absorbed in the book, it took me a bit to understand the direction it was going. The game was much more important than I initially thought it would be. However, it all came together very nicely. There came a point where I was on the edge of my seat, heart racing, and urging myself to read faster because the action was so intense that I was desperate to see what happened next. So, needless to say, the plot is excellent and the pacing was perfect.

I loved the characters! Marra is quiet and a bit subdued, but she is kind-hearted and more intelligent than she appears. I was rooting for her from the moment Drail walked into the shop. I also really liked Drail, while he is a man on a mission, he has a soft spot for Marra and I truly felt that he cared for her. Tryst confused me a little, but I assume that has to do with his circumstances, he also seems to be a gentlemen. The secondary characters are also well developed and likeable.

I love the world that the book takes place in and almost wish there was a tiny bit more world building in the beginning, just so I would’ve been even me lost in the story.

While there is a clear beginning, middle, and end, it is clear that the author intentionally left some loose ends in the story in order to produce more books. I hope to read them, as I would love to see where this story goes next.

I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review through the group Making Connection YA Edition https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Vonnie.
412 reviews7 followers
September 30, 2013
This was a fun fantasy book. I was surprised on how much I ended up liking it. I was asked by the author to review her book and accepted after reading the interesting synopsis. I was not sure what to expect because I've had hits and misses with fantasy books. Luckily, this was a hit with me.

I quite enjoyed the story. I was immediately captivated with the world introduced to me in the beginning. I wanted to know more about being a potion maker and was intrigued with the popular game called "Comet." I do have to admit, though, that it dragged a bit for me in the middle. As exciting as it was to learn about a new game (somewhat reminded me of Quidditch), I could not completely understand how it worked. I was confused as to what was going on, which made these chapters harder for me to follow. Luckily, my attention was grabbed again towards the last few chapters.

I really liked the characters as well. I found Marra's character to be the most exciting. She was eager to learn her trade and eager to help out people. Even though her life was constantly threatened, she still had the heart to do the right thing. I even felt proud of her for what she did at the end of the book. Another character that I found fun was Tryst. He was kind and mysterious, but I really loved how he took care of Marra. He didn't take advantage of her even though he asked Marra to go with him and his team just to help them win the games. I was a little suspicious of him at first, but I grew to like him right away.

Overall, I had a great time reading this fantasy book. Yes, there were a few slow and confusing parts but I was able to get past these. I liked the story and the characters.
Profile Image for Keely.
Author 2 books17 followers
August 16, 2013
It’s been a while since I’ve found myself absorbed in a good fantasy book, but this one broke that dry spell. I was a bit dubious at first as I didn’t really see where the story was going, however when the main plot line was introduced I couldn’t put the book down.
I would have liked to find out more about the individual characters/groups of people; there was a lack of backstory that made it really hard for me to actually care about the characters. This is the first book in a series though, so it’s possible that there is more of this as you continue reading.
Whilst somewhat predictable within the latest trend of fantasy stories, the main protagonist is a quiet, unassuming, young girl. Although this type of character seems to annoy me, I developed a fondness for this girl as there wasn’t an ounce of self-pitying and instead a quiet intelligence that the reader could see but she could not.
The story, linked together by a focus on a sport, acted as an important way in which the reader can develop a greater understanding of the characters as well as becoming the premise on which the story is created. As stated before, I wanted to spend more time with the character themselves so I would have sacrificed some ‘play time’ for that, but you cannot doubt the importance of the sport and I can only imagine this continues as the story goes on.

This is a light-hearted, easy to read and imaginative fantasy story that I would highly recommend to young teenagers. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on the progression of this series!
Profile Image for Ipublishedreviews.
2 reviews8 followers
July 18, 2014
The Birr Elixir is a well woven fantasy tale with enough realism to keep any reader involved. It follows the lives of three main characters, the chance meetings that change their lives, and their unexpected journey. Throughout this story you continually get swept up in the intense action of the Comet games (an extremely clever invention of the author); and pulled into the intrigue of strangers meeting, trust as yet unearned, and deception from assumed allies.

Marra is a poor and lonely apprentice potion maker, left to fend for herself when her potion master dies. Life is hard for her in the dusty land of San Cris, as she was only left with a few herbs and a book. A book that holds the key to her future.

Tryst is a prince from the land of Missea, the King’s City, who mysteriously finds himself in San Cris by no action of his own, and betrayed by those he thought he could trust.

Drail is a gamesman. The local champion of the game Comet in San Cris, whose dream and vision will propel all of their lives in a direction none could have anticipated.

Joe Sparkes has created a fantastical world inhabited by real people. People you can relate to. People you want to know more about. Hopefully as the serial progresses, we’ll get to know even more about this upwardly mobile trio as their adventure continues.

I recommend The Birr Elixir to anyone who likes to read fantasy with just enough realism to be relatable.

- Reviewed by Amy K. for iPublishedReviews
Profile Image for J C Steel.
Author 7 books182 followers
August 12, 2016
The Birr Elixir is a near-legendary potion, which only the elite of herbalists are able to mix - or can find the ingredients for. So when the captain of the local Comet team, Hand of Victory, comes into the herb shop asking for an energy potion, Marra, a bare one year into her apprenticeship, makes the first energy recipe she sees in her dead mentor's recipe book, never realising the significance of the recipe. When that same potion helps the Hand of Victory team to achieve an impossible win, they rescue Marra from a beating from her abusive keeper, along with his mysterious, unconscious captive, and set off on a journey that will take them to the edges of the continent and beyond.

Jo Sparkes's writing is a pleasure to read, keeping the story moving along briskly - from the unknown, unconscious man the Hand of Victory rescues along with Marra to the descriptions of the Comet matches, this is a fast-paced, enjoyable read, spiced with vivid descriptions. While the underlying story initially comes across as a typical maiden in distress plot, The Birr Elixir actually offers much more depth, with a victim who grows into the strength to defy her opressors and work with the men who rescued her to prevent a much larger injustice. The larger themes in the story complement the adventure and add layers of richness to the read. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, including younger readers.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rosie Amber.
Author 0 books115 followers
May 26, 2014
The Birr Elixir is book one in the Legend of Gamesmen series. It is a fantasy with several themes going on which will pan out further in later books. Tryst is a Prince who must set out on a coming of age journey into manhood called a epourney. He must travel the realm to learn about the people and the land before he can become their leader.

Marra works in a potions shop. Sadly Mistress Britta died before her studies were complete, but she can still learn from Britta's book. Treated badly by Britta's brother, Marra is rescued from the shop by Drail.

Drail is a Gamesman. He and his team play a fast ball game called Comet. Britta becomes their Brista, a potion maker. She brews a potion to give them strength before their games. The Gamesmen travel the country playing matches and hope to be able to enter the Solstice Championships in Port Leet.

When Drail rescued Marra, they also found a heavily drugged man, they took him with them. He slept for days before Marra could awaken him. The mystery man, realises he's been kidnapped and must find a way to return to the Great Continent. His chance comes when Drail and his team earn the Mark of Health Tatoo and can board a ship travelling away from the Wavering Continent.

This is a well thought out fantasy world and the game of comet is fascinating. I look forward to reading the next book and finding out where it leads the characters.
Author 35 books61 followers
February 17, 2015
I loved the world-building in The Birr Elixir – I was really there feeling the dust and sand under my feet. There were some great characters – Marra was very easy to identify with and I enjoyed watching her blossom from a down-trodden start into a capable young woman. The Hand of Victory team were also an engaging bunch, and there were several mysteries to keep me guessing. Oh, and I’m well aware of the old adage, but look at that cover, what a stunner!

Lively, entertaining and good humoured, The Birr Elixir was a super read.

What stopped it getting 5/5 was that a couple of characters wandered into gadzooks “that it be” speech patterns for a line or two before wandering back to normal speech (much better idea). And this is entirely my own fault for not paying attention to the length before I bought it – it’s a novella and very much the start of the story for Marra and the Comet team. One narrative thread was tied up neatly at the end, but I felt a bit cheated that the big story set up at the start wasn’t resolved. Don’t take that to mean you shouldn’t read it, you absolutely should, just be aware that The Birr Elixir is only one part of a larger whole. Fortunately, The Agben School, next in the series is published and ready to move straight onto (which is exactly what I did).
Profile Image for Fran .
4 reviews
February 23, 2020
After reading the Prologue, I can't wait to read what will happen to Marra, Tryst and Drail along the way!

This fantasy novel's detailed descriptions of the settings and characters make it easier for readers to connect through imagination. One can easily relate to the set of events and will surely look forward to the next. This is a key to make the readers to be more attached and to keep the interest on fire.

One who really loves fantasy and those who want to discover what fantasy novels can bring to their imagination, The Birr Elixir is a great choice to make!


That review was prior to reading the whole book.

Now, I'm looking forward for the Book 2 no matter how much it will take me! The Birr Elixir is a must-read book and I even recommend it to become a movie! The plot is simply amazing!
Profile Image for Tony Riches.
Author 19 books440 followers
July 7, 2014
Jo Sparkes has created an evocative world which draws on all the senses. Her first sentence. ‘It was a very dirty shop,’ draws you in to the life of Marra – a modern heroine who knows there must be more to life than the virtual slavery to her unsavoury master, Snark. Jo Sparkes’ background as a sports writer shines through in the ritual games of the ‘Comet Days,’ around which the plot develops at a fast pace.

Secret potions and magical books place this firmly in the fantasy genre and the gamesmen, relying on the elixir to compete against much stronger teams, reminded me of Harry Potter’s ‘Quidditch’ contests. This is, of course, book one of a series, so we are literally left at the quayside ready to sail on to further adventures. I for one will be looking forward to the journey!
Profile Image for Annastew1144hotmail.com.
189 reviews10 followers
June 11, 2014
A recommended read from BookViral I really enjoyed The Birr Elixir. I have found the fantasy genre a little stale lately and it is getting harder to find quality books, but this was certainly one of the most entertaining I have read in a while. The plot is excellent and there is a little levity which brings out the personalities of the main characters.
Profile Image for GeraniumCat.
250 reviews39 followers
March 16, 2014
Interesting and original fantasy. The author is obviously very familiar with American football, and the game in the book is well worked-out. Despite my usual lack of interest in sport I enjoyed it, and will look forward to sequels.
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