It cost him his closest friend, but Bowmark won the proving. He was victor. He was king. For a day. Then the usurper’s allies stole his father’s throne and cast him out. Now he wanders the seas and lands of Talifar, no longer a king but an exile, seeking ten treasures of ten nations that are the price of his return. His search for them will lead him into perils that threaten both body and soul.
Can Bowmark survive the tests before him? Will he obtain the treasures and find the strength to return and reclaim his throne from the usurper’s treason? And if he does… at what price?
While the first volume of The Scarred King series introduced us to the world of Talifar, Journey continues Bowmark’s adventure, introducing even more locales, creatures, and perils than we saw in the previous installment. The colorful flora and fauna of this world just keeps getting more and more interesting and fantastical while remaining grounded in reason. It was particularly interesting to me how many “animal” creatures in this world are highly intelligent and sophisticated beings. The descriptions of socio-political structures (both human and otherwise) was also fascinating without dragging down the narrative.
“it was particularly interesting to me how many “”animal”” creatures in this world are highly intelligent and sophisticated beings.”
The sequel maintains the style and quality of the original while continuing and deepening Bowmark’s character arc as well as his relationship with the sidekick/mentor character of Scolla. There also new revelations and clever world-building twists about both the Southils and the tezledeks, both of which were well-imagined and touched on some things that are often ignored in fantasy settings. There are additional hints about the nature of this world and how humans came to live here, pointing the way to more revelations to come.
Something else new about this book: whereas Exile took place exclusively from Bowmark’s point-of-view, Journey allows some secondary characters a voice in the narrative. I personally found this refreshing, as it further fleshes out the story and allows the reader to know more than the protagonist at key moments, thereby creating additional sources of tension.
The first book’s story was based upon key thematic elements of duty, friendship, and, ultimately, the nature of true leadership. We see this tapestry expanded in Journey as Bowmark faces additional moral choices with their accompanying tests, triumphs, and setbacks. These all intensify as the book nears its conclusion, with their associated tension and peril hooking the reader to follow the protagonist’s arc across the rest of the series. I had the sense throughout that things are building to a particularly epic conclusion…
“thematic elements of duty, friendship, and ultimately, the nature of true leadershiP”
Some minor drawbacks are as follows. While the first book felt a bit slow in the first half, this one has the opposite pitfall–I noticed time jumps at some key moments. Exposition crops up in a few places, although for the most part, the protagonist is used as a character who reveals information to the reader by learning along with them. His conscience-driven nature is also both a strength and a weakness. Bowmark constantly tries to do the right thing, which can make him seem rather “squeaky clean” at times, but we also see him make his share of significant mistakes.
I would recommend Journey to young adult readers who enjoyed Exile and are anxious to continue along with Bowmark on his quest. The story continues!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The author also contributes reviews to this website.
Heat: There is no sexual content, though sex is briefly referred to in one scene.
Violence: Some action-oriented violence.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Age recommendation: 11 and up.
Reviewed by A.K. Preston
A.K. Preston is the author of The Gevaudan Project, and has published short stories in The Unseen Anthology and The Untold Podcast. You can find him at his website, AKPreston.com. In his spare time, he likes to read classic literature, history, and speculative fiction of all types.