Monday, September 21, 2015

When They Shine Brightest by Jordan Zhelyazkov (4 stars)

About When They Shine Brightest

A character-driven fantasy novel, exploring the theme of loss and how we try to deal with it even when there is no way to do so.

Korsak Dryshore, a middle-aged war veteran, is being held directly responsible for the invasion of his home town of Seten. Everyone in Seten, including his family, blames him for losing the last ditch defense against the aggressors. 

Utterly defeated, and mourning the loss of his eldest son in the conflict, he has spent the last months following the battle away from home. Upon his return, he has to confront the animosity of the populace, made even worse by his bringing a heathen girl back with him.

Beaten, downcast and in despair, he is resigned to merely spending the remainder of his days in meek quietude. That would prove impossible, however, as he's soon implicated in an escalating political and religious conflict within the city. To make matters worse, his youngest son and the foreign girl are dragged deep into the whirlwind of the crisis.

And in the meantime, they are about to set over Seten.

While a standalone, “When They Shine Brightest” is also a first book in a new and vast fantasy world and gives the start of events that are yet to reach all of its corners.

Find out more on Goodreads

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Since the book summary so well outlines the arc of the story, I thought I'd jump right into my review.

Sometimes I find fantasy books so detailed and descriptive that characters are lost. Thankfully, that's not the case with this story. Korsak is a multi-dimensional character with plenty of flaws and strengths. He loves his family, yet he's often sidetracked by duty and his own journey.

Even more of his character is highlighted through his relationship with a young girl. She's brought into his life through an interesting turn of events, and in the end, she manages to bring him closer to self-understanding and to his own family. 

This is an epic saga about families, duty, and struggle. There's a beautiful richness and depth to it, both in world-making and in character-building.

It's a captivating and fascinating read. I'm looking forward to future installments. 

Rating: 4 stars

About the Author

Yordan Zhelyazkov was born 1988 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Actively reading since he was 4 years old he had several attempts at writing while growing up but none of them was really serious. That changed in his early 20s when he decided to turn writing into a career, began his Creative Writing Masters degree in New Bulgarian University and also started working on When They Shine Brightest.

Soon after he finished his work on the novel he signed a contract for its publication with publishing house "Enthusiast" in Bulgaria. In the meantime he also gave the book for translation into English to professional translator Alexander Gurovski and made a successful IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign with which he funded the enterprise. He published and self-published the book in both languages in 2015.

At the moment Yordan is working on his next fantasy novel.

Note: I served as Proofreader for this novel through Indie Books Gone Wild. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.