The Bericean army was in Malabrim for the ninth straight fighting season. Over the past 9 years, Zybaro, the leader of a small band of unknowns, had evolved from his days as a minor usurper of a tiny kingdom. Now, almost the entire country of Malabrim was under Zybaro’s control, and his army was large enough to easily challenge Bericea’s army. Still, Bericea continued its raids into Malabrim, hoping to stem Zybaro’s methodical progress and thwart his tyrannical methods of control. Zybaro had seized village after village, forcing anyone capable of joining his army and enslaving all who remained in deplorable working conditions to supply his troops.
The latest conflict with Zybaro had pushed General Darnon to a decision, one he had resisted making for over a year. Though he still held grave reservations about the Prophecies, he was willing to support the clerics who would attempt the summoning. The details of the ritual had recently been discovered in an ancient tome. The clerics were confident they could bring forth the Summoned Ones of Prophecy, those mysterious beings who would aid Bericea in its time of greatest need.
Darnon also had concerns about the location of the summoning. It would have to take place deeper into Malabrim than they had ventured in many years. And even if the ritual was effective, it would be a great challenge to get the Summoned Ones safely back to Bericea, along with the soldiers sent to protect them. However, Darnon felt that morale was so low, if they survived this battle, he owed his troops the hope the summoning ritual could bring.
Join the soldiers of Bericea and the Summoned Ones through a life-or-death struggle. The Summoned Ones are a college-aged group of friends from a small Kentucky town near the Daniel Boone National Forest who find themselves somehow brought to a chaotic world through magic. Their epic journey will push the Summoned Ones beyond the limits of their endurance. This unlikely group will discover many truths about themselves and experience another world beyond their imagination.
Darryl A. Woods grew up in rural Ohio, and has a huge amount of rural tales from his youth and adulthood that have compelled him into becoming a storyteller. A degree in Systems Analysis led to a day job designing databases, which, when combined with a side business transforming houses with his wife, and evenings and weekends spent woodworking in the family business with his father-in-law, have given Daryl a huge amount of varied experiences - and as a huge fan of writers such as Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks and Brian Jacques, fantasy seemed the natural place for Darryl to write this novel - although it skillfully blends many real world elements alongside the more fantastical.
I'm a huge fantasy fan too - I came to it fairly late, but absolutely love the way elements of myth and magic can be combined with stories of humanity and emotion in order to create compelling stories that genuinely transport the reader to another world. That is quite literally what happens in "The Summoned Ones", as a group of friends from rural America are transported into a lengthy conflict, far away from everything they have known before. "The Summoned Ones" contains many elements of fantasy I love - characters from 'our world' to serve as viewpoints for the reader, a clever system of magic that has clearly been thought out in great detail, and maps! I love a map, and Woods has clearly pictured his world in great detail - helping the reader see exactly what he is intending us to see, and pulling us into the world that be easier.
Woods is a skilful writer, and ensures that he combines world building with action well - the plot flows, and it's easy to keep turning the pages without noticing how the time passes. In terms of characterisation - there are a lot of characters for the reader to get to grips with initially, which could prove confusing, but Woods allows the reader to get to know them all well - although several I imagine are going to have significant developments in upcoming books in this series!
My one issue was in the fact that sometimes plot could slow down slightly when something specific was being explained to the reader - in some cases it felt like the reader could have learned about various aspects throughout the story, as opposed to multiple sections that feel like they're full of expository text. However, this is the first book in a series, and world building is necessary and expected, so it certainly didn't put me off - and will allow future volumes in this series to find their own pace away from the need to explain everything in detail.
All in all - this is a cracking read - a strong fantasy debut and one that combines a range of fantasy ideas to create a world that feels real and compelling to read about. I look forward to further books in the series, and thank both Darryl A. Woods and Emma Welton of Damppebbles for the copy.
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/31HTPbr
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Z1mLsY
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summoned-ones-darryl-
Published in paperback and digital formats by Bresford Ridge Publishing on 29 th February 2020