Review of The Empyrean Key - by J.L. Tomlinson

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and 3.5 on Goodreads! 

Jahna Mornglow is a Narcean, one with the power to see the world around them in a different way and see the future, though she does not yet know the extent of her abilities. She is raised in a small and secluded town and has little knowledge of her kind as her mother refuses to enlighten her. Her days are filled with time spent with her close friends, a loud and large barmaid and a self-made scholar and nerd and she has taken to using the little power under her control to con money from people to fund an escape from the small town and adventure with her friends to the capital city.

The larger world is under threat. The king lies dying and with him the light and hope of the world. The constant threat from a neighboring land is held at bay but the strength of the mighty army is dwindling. It has been decided, against tradition that the king’s daughter is to replace him on the throne, but if that happens, disaster will come quickly.

Through a series of events, Jahna finds out she is the only one that can change the course of history but she must go on a quest to forge the Key and prove her worth. At first she shies away from that path, only when the town is attacked and she loses someone dear, does she decide to venture from all that she has known in search of her newly discovered birthright. I will stop there to let you, the reader; find out more of the living world the author has created.

Of the issues I had with this book, number one was the length. The first 45% seemed like an intro that could have been tied up in a couple chapters. Then there was the slightly jarring transition from the protagonist’s story to the larger royal storyline that, while important and truly great to get into, pulled you away from Jahna for a chapter or two too long. The minor issues were a number of spelling mistakes and/or missing words but they did not take away from the overall writing. Another small gripe I had was the portrayal of the main characters, especially the young women. I believe they are meant to be mid to late teens in a medieval type setting (when to be 14-16 was to be an adult), but they were written as if they were younger and more immature. There seemed to be a little too much of the current and real world in the interaction between daughter and mother, etc. and between the three friends; a slight lack of depth early on, though it improved later on.

The cover is decent, based on the layout it seems more like a video game cover than a novel, but it works.

Of the characters in the first half, I wanted to know more about Mogrim and the fighting he and his brothers were involved in and the little you see of him open up about his experience was tempting but never went anywhere. I also liked the Narcean seer, Friziel, and the three cousin lords and felt a stronger urge to read more content about them than the main protagonist. The storyline that involved the royal family etc. was interesting and had the right amount of intrigue and depth to keep me coming back and needing more. 

Once the story got rolling about halfway through the book with an attack on Jahna’s town it began to flow much better. The quest to find the secrets to save the world began and was generally strong and interesting and kept me entertained throughout. The battle scenes were decently done and flowed well and there was enough going on to keep me wondering what would happen next.

Bottom line, if the novel had been a bit shorter, I believe I would have really enjoyed it. While the writing could have been a little tighter and dialog more fitting of the setting/place, it was generally very well done. This is a great read for those readers that like to get to know a character outside of a greater storyline, to walk with them through their daily life before it is overturned by events and to see them change little by little in the chaos that ensues. I encourage younger readers to pick this up and get a taste of what J.L. Tomlinson has to offer. 

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