Darin, a human of extraordinary unimpressiveness, astounded observers by surviving his first year on the mythical world of Arvia. His training and equipment may be questionable, but at least his best friend, Rinloh, an accident-prone harpy the size of a three-story building, is willing to lend a hand. Or a wing. Yet when an ancient magic artifact leaves a trail of chaos in its wake, it’s no longer just the giant mythical monsters he has to worry about.
Rinloh, a harpy whose unbridled enthusiasm leads to the occasional sundry destruction, charges into things talons first. Her curiosity is as insatiable as her flockmate’s appetite for human flesh, yet she can’t protect Darin from them until she becomes full-fledged. Regrettably, the test is a human hunt.
A distant forest may hold answers to both quests, yet who dares venture where even harpies fear tread?
Life is a journey. Sometimes the most important journeys are within.
Finding Your Harpy Place, a new adventure on Arvia, a beautiful world filled with colorful, larger-than-life characters and ravenous mythical monsters more colorful and larger still. Experience it from the safety of your favorite armchair.
D.H. Willison is a reader, writer, game enthusiast and developer, engineer, and history buff. He’s lived or worked in over a dozen countries, learning different cultures, viewpoints, and attitudes, which have influenced his writing, contributing to one of his major themes: alternate and creative conflict resolution. The same situations can be viewed by different cultures quite differently. Sometimes it leads to conflict, sometimes to hilarity. Both make for a great story.
He’s also never missed a chance to visit historic sites, from castle dungeons, to catacombs, to the holds of tall ships, to the tunnels of the Maginot Line. It might be considered research, except for the minor fact that his tales are all set on the whimsical and terrifying world of Arvia. Where giant mythic monsters are often more easily overcome with empathy than explosions.
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This is a really good sequel. I think even though I gave it the same rating as book 1, it is fractionally better than the first book. The writing is a tad more polished and the characters, especially Rinloh are really coming into their own.
This book goes deeper into the world of Arvia, we learn more of its history and culture as Darin continues to survive without being eaten. The author’s humour is on full display again throughout. Rinloh and Darin have an adorable relationship and its great to see a protagonist in a fantasy in the form of Darin who is basically the most average and basically weak and insignificant guy in existence (in Arvia) rather than your usual super amazing fighter and chosen one etc etc that basically every other fantasy book in the world has.
Allin all I’m going to say 4 to 4.5 stars for this. Very good book thank you TWR and the author for my copy. If you are looking for a light, fun fantasy book then I think this would be a great choice, you can also in my opinion jump right in with this one without having needed to read the first book. It pretty much stands on its own.
How I read this: Free ebook copy received from the author
If you enjoyed the first book in the series, you will definitely enjoy this one too, because I felt it was even better than the first one. Here's my full review of both books: https://avalinahsbooks.space/tales-of...
I thank the author for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
''Even had a dream last night. A beautiful, wonderful dream. Someone believed in me. Believed in me with all their heart.'' Okay, way to stab me straight in the heart, jeez!😁
Quick summary: What happens when a snack-sized, adventure-seeking human named Darin, and a giant, "dangerous", kindhearted, brave harpy named Rinloh become friends? Well, they go on an adventure of course!🪁 They go on quests together, in a world filled with magical creatures, where danger is everywhere...and danger is everything and everyone. 😮
This book is SOMETHING different. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to stumble upon a gem like this. It's ACTUALLY one-of-a-kind, witty, intelligently written, and undeniably unputdownable (yes, I'm pretty sure I made that word up).😁
430 pages yet it is very fast-paced. We don't linger on unnecessary details and events, and we glide seamlessly from one adventure to the other. It's divided into 36 chapters, and each chapter has a witty name, such as: ''Ogres Eleven''. A lot of things happen while Darin is trying to discover who has stolen a mysterious, yet valuable artifact; from being taken hostage by goblins to purchasing cursed properties and going on an exotic vacation to a tropical island with a harpy.
''He'd hardly be more than an appetizer for me.'' How DARE he insult my Darin! ''You take that back! He's lean and healthy and he'd be very tasty and nutritious.'' LOL😁
What I really liked is the funny banter between all the different species, and the constant puns, sarcasm, and hilarious remarks! This is truly a FUN read. This should be a movie I tell ya.
Who would like this? Fantasy readers, who love to get immersed in unique worlds that have their own systems and hierarchy in place. Readers who love an adventure-packed story with vivid, funny, characters that draw you into the world and make you feel like you're not on this planet anymore.
The novel Finding Your Harpy Place by D. H. Willison inspires in me a fantasy about readers’ reactions—perhaps a character trait or a strategy for facing life’s challenges and dangers resonates with other readers.
The novel is packed with exciting suspense that I enjoyed as much as the next reader, but the protagonists also exhibit characteristics that beg for recognition.
Compelling quests tackled by the two protagonists might remind us that we too might undertake quests, no matter how humble, to bring excitement and purpose to our lives.
These characters' quests take them singly and together into areas of Arvia new to them—exotic but dangerous jungles, a rickety settlement, a most unusual city, a lush tropical island—where readers are introduced to strange flora and fauna not appearing in Harpyness is Only Skin Deep. (Incidentally, it’s unnecessary to have read the first novel in Willison’s Tales of Arvia series to understand the second. However, Harpyness might be read later as a prequel.)
Earthling Darin, on this alternative world about a year, is still overwhelmed by gigantic predators. He is compelled to interrupt a quest on behalf of his boss by one more urgent to him, propelling him into unknown but dangerous predator territory.
Harpy Rinloh is actually one of those scary predators—but they are best friends. She bumbles at times but has great qualities and potential, having made good progress in Harpyness. Yet she has problems that send her on her own quest.
I’m curious about how many readers will react to ways the protagonists overcome those challenges. Will they be amazed at how resourceful the protagonists are or will they recognize strengths they themselves marshal to conquer dangers or difficulties?
I found encouragement for accessing our inner child, one character trait they share. We might not be able to create games for flying, like “Glide and Catch” that Darin and Rinloh find exhilarating, but we might transfer their joy into other avenues and activities to create more zest in our lives. Can we remember frolicking on a beach with a smile? Can we actually do that again?
Both protagonists give us ample examples of thirsting after knowledge while refining their sensitivity to the situations faced by various beings, further developing empathy.
Darin seeks a library to study history to try to identify a mysterious artifact and eagerly talks to non-human, sentient species like huge predatory mermaids and mermen—as well as the small goblins and rodent folk. Darin’s developing compassion even includes some pretty unsavory humans.
Rinloh inspects objects and constantly asks questions to learn more about humans and all their “stuff,” from ships to kitchen utensils; she is happy to learn to talk to humans—undaunted by their initial reaction of alarm if not terror.
The two friends despair over their inadequacies but rely on and develop their strong points. Both become confident when crisis strikes. Rinloh creates three mantras from a dream, using them when she attempts impossible missions. Watch for her mantras in the novel. We learned about such self-talk in kindergarten. Remember “The Little Engine that Could”?
What a good idea, accepting our weaknesses and developing our strengths.
People on earth—stumbling as we recognize that women have an array of qualities and talents for positions denied them throughout patriarchal dominance—find in Willison’s novels how natural it could be for more women to successfully assume nontraditional roles. And it isn’t just gender acceptance on Arvia; half-humans and even some predators make the cut.
Laced into all this adventuring and these terrifying situations—as well as all this development of admirable traits—are Willison’s signature wit, his refreshingly novel escapes, cool metaphors and descriptions, and fascinating settings in this world he has built.
And hey, want the full experience? Don’t skip over those chapter titles.
Hang on to your safety straps as our favorite harpy takes flight and transports you into a fantasy world filled with dangers aplenty both for tiny humans and almost fully-fledged harpies. Rinloh is the hero of this journey as she sheds the shackles of harpy traditions and sets out to create her own unique path into harpy adulthood.
If you enjoyed, Harpyness Is Only Skin Deep, you will be delighted by Finding Your Harpy Place. While both our heroes have a part to play in saving the world from evil doers, it is Rinloh who truly entertains us as she breaks taboos and burns bridges in her determination to blaze a new and unique trail in her flock.
For me, the opening paragraphs seemed a little too placid. However, they do nicely remind the reader of the events at the close of the previous book and also imply upcoming action through Darin’s needing to train with weapons.
The next scene with Rinloh is much more entertaining, and I loved seeing how she is becoming more comfortable with humans and working on her communication skills.
Rinloh’s character development thorough this book is wonderful. I love her innocence, especially in the very final scene of this novel. She’s already likable in the opening, but her determination to do the right thing and her rejection of societies expectations is exceptional. If you didn’t already love Rinloh after reading the first book, you can’t fail to fall for her now.
My favorite part of her character arc was around p.157 when she begins to reflect on her nature and what she wants to be in life. I absolutely loved her response to this and the actions she takes which fuel the direction of most of the rest of this novel.
Darin continues to amuse the reader and teach us about Arvia from an Earthling’s perspective. His character growth is wonderful, especially following the events of p.157 where he begins to feel a need to make amends.
Kausifauss gets developed much more in this book and proves to be a truly interesting character. I wonder if she’ll get her own series some day. As it is, she keeps on entertaining and enlightening as she educates and guides Darin during various parts of his quest. There are frequent hints of a complex backstory that is not fully developed in this novel or the last.
This second novel in the series is a literal hero’s journey for both main characters. Both leave their homes as the lowest of the low, gain status and experience during their travels, then return having achieved great things and saved the world from a clear and present danger.
I cannot give away exactly what happens in this book without introducing spoilers. However, I will reveal that Darin and Rinloh have adventures and complete quests both separately and together.
To me, Rinloh’s actions and their consequences were much more interesting than Darin’s. I loved what she achieved and was delighted by the final beach scene, which was well foreshadowed and most entertaining.
Xin continues to entertain, but it is Nagdyre that I shall always remember from this book. This city of rodents is incredible. The settings are well introduced and truly fascinating. I loved the “othering” in this novel as Darin compares this new city with Xin.
Most of all, I adored the food descriptions. The food in Nagdyre is really different to the food elsewhere in many different ways because of the unique palette of its main inhabitants. The way this is introduced and how the facts are used in the story are inspirational. It is subtle cultural differences like this that make well-written epic fantasy the sublime reading experience it is.
I also enjoyed the wider exploration of Arvia’s flora and fauna during the journey. Details about the insects in the trees and the different kinds of predators were fascinating. Also the parts about the healing springs were great, though I felt that Saber Springs Baths could have been explored and described in a little more detail.
The details on trade and trade caravans in Arvia were enlightening. I also enjoyed the historical details about the lost empire and how it tied in with the events of this story.
As with the first book, the first-person narrative is both crystal clear and entertaining. I love Darin’s whimsical words and Rinloh’s internal attempts to grasp hold of human thought processes.
There was one small continuity error, but it didn’t really diminish my reading pleasure. On p.129, Darin feeds Rinloh “chunks of roasted nut meat” he has cooked around a fire ring. Later, on p.135, Rinloh declares “The other birds say that cooked food is weird, but I want to try it out,” as she asks Darin if he will cook some food for her.
I was surprised that Rinloh referred to herself and her flock as birds, and the implication of her statement is that she has never tried cooked food before. Maybe the author should make it clearer that she means cooked meat or fish.
These days, there are lots of epic fantasy stories involving knights, mercenary soldiers of fortune, dragons, elves, and dwarfs. There are also many that bring in mythical beasts from classical antiquity, especially demigods and Greek, Roman, and Norse gods. However, few if any other fantasy novels combine an everyman character and a harpy.
This epic fantasy tale is unique and special. The author has created two very special characters who are lovable, flawed, and strive to be the best people that they can be. I have fallen in love with this series, and I believe that you will, too.
Of course, I’m going to rate this book 5 out of 5. I’d like to rate it higher, but that’s as high as the scale goes. It deserves more.
I received an advance review copy (ARC) for free, but this review is my honest opinion of the book.
Though I didn’t read the first book, I didn’t feel lost at all entering the world of Arvia. This isn’t an epic fantasy, but more of an episodic adventure that all ties together by the end (and teases a third book).
Willison’s humor is wonderful and welcomed from the more grim-dark “edgy” fantasy tales that were popular in the early and mid 2010s. I had a few laugh out loud moments while reading this book. I especially love that this series focuses on harpies instead of the more mainstream D’n’D and Tolkien fantasy creatures.
Darin is a charming fish out of water protagonist. His (mis)adventures sometimes revolve around his work at a shop in the backwater city of Xin and sometimes start because his harpy best friend, Rinloh. Of course no one in Xin can know about Darin and Rinloh being friends or Darin will get executed.
Rinloh is our other protagonist. She speaks in the present tense and is our primary window into harpy culture. Her main goal this book is to become fully fledged in her flock without having to kill and eat a human.
Add in some fun secondary and side characters (like the harpy leader Jenolen, Darin’s other good friend Fogmort, Darin’s half-neko boss Kausifauss - to name a few). All of the characters keep the plot moving and tie the overarching story together.
If you need something fun during these crazy times, go on an adventure with Darin and Rinloh.
These are two wonderful books in one, and my only critique is that they should have been sequential rather than interleaved. I was very invested in the "chase the harpy" plotline and it felt a bit weird to suddenly go back to the "find the artifact" plot when it was done. I also wanted to see more of the landlord-witch relationship, so I hope that's explored more in the following book. Otherwise, even more heartwarming, witty, and gently satirical as the first, and leaves me wanting plenty more.