Into the Wildbarrens by Christian Sterling (The Gems of Elsana; 1).

The Synopsis:

We know him well. Ever-flowing wisdom. Concealed power. A white beard and a proclivity for mentoring chosen ones. In so many stories, we find ourselves enamored with a kindly wizard guiding our protagonist, curious to his roots, source of power, and hidden knowledge. This is that wizard’s story.

Falin is only twenty years of age, and with nine-hundred eighty years left to explore the world, he is eager to begin his quest for the Gems of Elsana. As one of ten wizard’s acting as peacekeepers to their land, Falin must first embark on a journey to gather the Gems, four jewels that provide wizards with their full power. Once a century, a wizard sets out on their quest, accompanied by four Champions from each kingdom within the The Crown of Elsana.

Falin considers himself lucky, joined by a sage healer, elven assassin, drakkish warrior, and madorian prince. All seems well until the elder wizards reveal they expect Falin’s quest will take them into the Wildbarrens, a desolate and horrid land teeming with creatures of the Dark. Given the circumstances—and to the chagrin of Falin’s honorable Champions—the group is accompanied by an unscrupulous pair of outlaws claimed to have traveled through the Wildbarrens. In their expedition, they come across friends and foes, countless landscapes, all while uncovering a sinister plot threatening the balance of Elsana.

I received this book from the author via BookSirens for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are entirely my own.

Review:

“No journey spent has ever gone without stumbles.” -Into the Wildbarrens

Into the Wildbarrens is literally, exactly what the synopsis says! It’s the story of that wise wizard that we look to for guidance in other stories, and oh my goodness, it was done so well!

Falin is a young wizard, but as he embarks on this journey to find the Gems of Elsana, we see snippets of that old, wise mentor we know that he will become. The transition is not immediate, but gradual, as he and his Champions make mistakes, overcome trials, and learn so much about one another and the kingdom around them.

I rarely discuss each character individually in my reviews, but Into The Wildbarrens is about the characters more than it is plot. I mean, yes, the quest for the gems was fabulous, and the trials were endearing, but without these amazing characters, I doubt I’d have loved this book as much as I did. So, I’m going to highlight them briefly (And yes, I’m saving the best for last!).

Bossador the Prince. He is charming, noble, and quick to prove himself worthy of trust and responsibility. I love Bossador because, though all of the aforementioned is generally seen as strength, his struggles lie in acting with too much haste, focusing on himself being capable to help others (rather than seeing what actually might be best for the other person), and a natural tendency to want to take charge. Bossador wasn’t my favorite character, but his development from young prince yearning to prove himself, to the desired personality of a future king made me certainly appreciate him in the end.

Melquin the Sage. When I read about Mel, I often imagined the personality and charisma of Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I’m not sure if that is what the author intended, but that’s how I pictured her. Mel is soft, quiet, and not always in the limelight as far as the action goes. But when her time comes to shine, she isn’t easily forgotten and her choices to act in ways the others wouldn’t normally, often save them with better outcomes.

The World Map from Into the Wildbarrens. Used from Christian Sterling’s website. No copyright intended.

Nym the Assassin. Nym is playful, spunky, and a deadly aim. I really, really liked having Nym in the group because she added a flare. Her contributions during fights were abstract and her personality kept them all on their toes. Nym wasn’t in the spotlight quite as much as I would’ve liked, but I loved her nonetheless.

Carthon the Drak. Carthon is easily one of my favorites. I have a thing for redeemed characters and their struggles of past grievances so Carthon and his past intrigued me. Carthon has all of the dynamics to both challenge the group and to help them thrive at their absolute best. He has a wall built up around his feelings, but I loved watching him bond with the others and slowly break that wall down.

And the best for last: Redrick “Red” and Jimbuah “Jimmy”. Y’all. These two alone had me rolling. I was laughing so hard at their antics, conversations, smart remarks, everything! Into the Wildbarrens has such a memorable adventure because of these two, and I mean it when I say that Red and Jimmy alone is reason enough to pick this book up!

Overall, I give Into The Wildbarrens 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it wholeheartedly! It does have magic, some mildly detailed action/gore, and some mild cursing.

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