Outpost (The Fylking #1) by F T McKinstry #SPFBOF
Today I’m reviewing my chosen book from the fifth batch of books. For the SPFBO I split my books into 6 batches, each batch having 5 books, with the aim of choosing one favourite book from each and then to pick an overall winner from those final 6 and today’s post is my review of my book from the fifth batch.
Outpost is a well written and absorbing high fantasy story set on the war torn planet of Math. The planet Math, already at war, is about to face it’s biggest threat and whilst the majority of the planet is wrapped up in politics, intrigue and warfare a much more deadly foe threatens its very existence. With an underlying love story (very subtle) and three very unlikely allies McKinstry manages to spin a fascinating tale which I found really quite compelling.
The world building. There’s quite a lot going on here. Thankfully McKinstry doesn’t really hang about – we get a few little history updates along the way but for the most part the world building is delivered as the plot progresses. This certainly is a fascinating place. I won’t go into great depth but the way I understood things the Fylking are immortal warriors from another planet, their enemy is the Niflsekt. Many years ago the Fylking created a portal on the planet Math and they still travel back and forth using that gateway. On the planet Math human seers are chosen as Wardens to protect the portal from demons and other such using it and causing mayhem and destruction. Wardens are taught by the Fylking, who occasionally appear to them in their warrior form but more often than not use the spirit of whatever animal they are aligned to – for example a wolf or a bird – maybe even a spider! Apologies if I’ve over complicated that – and believe me when I say the author does a much better job of setting the scene than I possibly can.
In terms of the characters. We have three main characters who all share a connection. Their tales for the most part are told in separate POV instalments but eventually their paths intertwine as they’re drawn into the story.
Othin, named after the trickster God, is a Ranger. Sworn to protect the people he travels a certain path keeping trouble at bay. He’s definitely a larger than life character, fearsome on the battle field, probably equally as fierce in terms of beer swilling he can come across at first as a bit of a womaniser but in fact this impression is not all there is to him and he’s a character that I really came to like as the story progressed. His men are certainly loyal to him and on top of that he’s finally found the love of a good woman. Unfortunately for Othin he’s also found the eye of a rather scheming young woman, who coincidentally happens to be the daughter of his Lord and Master.
Melisande is a wonderful character which is probably why she captured not only my heart but also that of Othin. She is undoubtedly my favourite of the story. She’s a young woman who lives by herself in a cottage in the woods with her cat and her herbs – she loves Othin and looks forward to his visits. She gets by through bartering her knitted goods with the people from the village. The people of the village vary in their feelings towards her. Some are her friends and would protect her, others keep a civil tongue in exchange for her knitted items (which everyone loves) and some outwardly scorn her and would try to rile up the feelings of the others – it’s a tenuous balance and the pitchforks, torches and cries of ‘witch’ are only a hair’s breadth from being broken out. Is she a witch? Not really, she’s more god touched. Melisande is capable of Pattern Sense and whilst this comes across as a very understated form of magic it is in fact much more powerful than she realises. I loved Pattern Sense – I never envisioned myself writing a review and raving about magic that involves knitting – and yet here I am doing that very thing! What can I say – it just works.
Arcmael was born the son of a Lord, privilege and wealth were his right but unfortunately he didn’t live up to his father’s dreams and, having no natural inclination to become a warrior or fight wars, he was pushed out of the family home. His path eventually led to initiation as a seer/warden and although he steadfastly refuses to pick up a sword he now acts as guardian of one of the Gates.
These three eventually find themselves on paths they never expected. Othin finds himself deserting his post – not out of cowardice but to escape the manipulations of the Lord who commands him and try to return to explain things to Melisande. Meliande (or Milly) is forced to run from her home when the true strength of her magic becomes known and the villages take drastic measures and Arcmael, in frustration, banishes the Fylking from his sight leaving him alone and unprotected on a dangerous road.
There is plenty of action going on in Outpost not to mention lots of ‘otherworld’ type creatures. We have the fae that live in the mists of the forests and the wicked goblins that live below the ground – we also have draugr. Based on old Norse myths the closest I can come to an explanation of them is zombie or revenant. And we have an evil warlord who, using spirits of the dead is animating corpses to form his own diabolical army of draugr.
I must say that I really enjoyed Outpost, it had unique and creative world building, likeable characters, that I was always anxious to return to, and plenty of plot to drive the story forward. The world portrayed is quite a gritty and dark one which is offset by the almost fairytale feel of certain elements of the story and the inclusion of a particular tricky God that I would definitely like to hear more from.
I don’t really have any criticisms as such. I found the ending maybe a little bit rushed – or at least comparatively to the rest of the novel and it was an unexpected ending but that being said this is the first in series and we’re left with some firm ideas of what might happen next. Also, I would quickly point out that there is a particular scene in the book that involves an incident with Millie that could be a potential trigger to some readers. I will stress though that this is not at all gratuitous and is a key part of the story that not only moves her story forward but also sees her character develop and strengthen in quite unexpected ways.
In conclusion, I found this a very enjoyable read with likeable characters living in a well imagined world and I would definitely continue to read more in this series.
Outpost is my chosen book from batch 5.
My books so far:
- Batch 1: Rebel’s Honor by Gwynn White
- Batch 2: Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little
- Batch 3: As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe
- Batch 4: The Amber Isles by Ashley Capes
- Batch 5: Outpost by F T McKinstry – review to follow
- My book from batch 6 to be forthcoming soon!
I now have my final batch update and chosen book to review – my aim is to post these tomorrow and announce my winner at the same time (although it could potentially slip to Tuesday – ‘the best laid plans, etc, etc’).