Author: Josh Martin
Date of Publication: 9th February 2017
Synopsis: Two rival lands produce two Chosen Ones – Aula and Joomia. Both lands want a prize; a book of knowledge. But only one Chosen One can prevail. The twist? It’s prophesied that the two girls will need to work together if they want to save their homes.
I often say with my fantasy that I’m looking for something new and different. You can only take so many tales based on girls with hidden talents competing in competitions and winning the hearts of princes or lords (often both, creating the dreaded love triangle) before enough is enough.
Ariadnis caught my eye because it seemed to avoid all of the above. Yes, our main characters are special girls. But that’s not all they are. Both Aula and Joomia are the Chosen Ones of their rival, post unexplained apocalyptic event, homes. Each have their strengths (Aula is literally strong, and Joomia has power over nature) and their weaknesses (Aula is desperate for affection – often driving those around her away in the process of trying to get it – and Joomia is a mute who is unable to use her powers for fear of losing control). Instantly this humanity in the face of a very fantastic setting made both girls compelling.
What made Ariadnis stand out for me was how the central “quest” – trying to get a book of knowledge which was pre-ordained in prophecy hundreds of years before – isn’t really the central theme of the book. At least not for me. My favourite thing, other than the wonderful world building, interesting supporting cast of characters, and great heroines was this; the story was of Aula and Joomia growing up and becoming the people they were capable of being. It’s a coming of age story which is steeped in fantastical elements, and yet it is also incredibly relatable. Aula is every young girl, trying to find love from those around her and responding to rejection with rebellion. Joomia is every shy and introverted teen who is too afraid to stand out, for fear of the expectations attached with it becoming too much. There’s also great diversity here; characters come in a wide variety of colours and sexual orientations – just what modern fantasy needs more more more of.
I also felt that the writing style, especially the sometimes incredibly frequent changes between narrator, worked really well. When you reach the end of the book you will draw your own conclusions as to whether the device is used well (the plot indicates why it is done so very frequently, and I loved the result) – it keeps things fast paced and connected. However it might not be for everyone, so be forewarned if you’re not a fan of this.
I would have liked to know more about the worlds the characters lived in, and would be really interested in a prequel about how the life changing event which set this into motion came to pass. However in many ways this is perfect as a standalone (another rare trait for a fantasy novel). A good, solid read.