So, here we are, with the first regular book review I’ve done in ages! We’ll start with the Beaumont and Beasley new fantasy series by indie author Kyle R. Shultz. The first novel is called The Beast of Talesend (new cover above), and the latest release (below) is The Tomb of the Sea Witch.
The premise of Beaumont and Beasley is that, in an alternate history and alternate Europe, fairytales were real, and very different (more dark and gritty) than those of us in the Disney-as-king era may be aware. The clever bit is that the author does go back to the actual Grimm, Christensen, etc. tales (which were often quite nasty indeed).
The protagonist/narrator is Nick Beasley, a private detective who is convinced magic is not real, and makes sure to uncover all the fraudulent wizards and the like of his city/time period. However, Nick gets the rug yanked out from under him when a magical spell turns him into a beast.
(None of this is spoilers; it’s all available in blurb form on various websites.)
Anyway, this sets the stage for some great adventures. Nick is quickly paired with Cordelia Beaumont (who’s a rather wild card enchantress), and along with turning our versions of Beauty and the Beast and Snow White inside out, there’s so much clean, fun humor, action, and witty banter (without an obvious lead to romance — something unexpected, and refreshing for many readers).
If you’re looking for a fantasy read that’s different, not-tropey, and appropriate for a range of ages, I strongly suggest getting a copy of The Beast of Talesend. (Paperbacks and e-books are available. And now an audio version, too! See, you have no excuse!)
Also, if you don’t read The Beast of Talesend, then you’ll soon be behind, since book 2 has just been released!
The Tomb of the Sea Witch (original planned title was Song of the Drowned, which, sorry, but I liked better) picks up fairly soon after the events of book 1, but in a very different setting. This time Nick’s half-brother Crispin joins Nick and Cordelia for the adventures.
Let me wax poetic about the characters for a moment. As an autistic reader, I really enjoy it when I find characters I can connect to. Nick and Crispin (especially Crispin) Beasley do this. In book 1, there are very few secondary characters (which actually was refreshing, since 756 supporting cast in a fantasy novel becomes rather difficult for me). In book 2, there are many, but the major ones are fleshed out, with plenty to like about some of them.
To say I was infatuated with Headmaster Malcolm Blackfire is an understatement. Usually I don’t go for “the bad boy” type, but I totally loved his sophistication, sense of authority, refusal to take any sass, and his deep-down noble character. Also, the second novel includes a pooka, centaur, satyr, dryad, unicorn, and salamander. (I need Sparky the salamander and Edmund the unicorn.)
I received an ARC of TotSW, but this does not sway my opinions. (I can be a bit merciless like that…)
Whereas Beast had a very light-hearted feel to it, Tomb seemed a bit more serious. Not necessarily in a bad way, though. I could tell that the author was working hard to further develop his characters, and when it comes to Crispin, it’s obvious that’s happening. With Nick and Cordelia, it seems slower, but it’s there (particularly Nick). (Maybe it’s because I’m not as attached to Cordelia, though? Honestly, I wasn’t completely sure Nick could trust her until about 25 pages from the end of Beast, so I guess it’s fair to say I’m not as invested in her growth? Part of me is still waiting for her to be revealed as a secret master villain.)
There are also many hints that the next books (at least two more are planned) will introduce more new characters and bigger plots. I like that idea, since the world-building has established early on there’s so much to possibly explore in this premise. My only concern (not even a concern, really, more of a note) is that, whereas Beast seemed to have all the relevant plot points covered down to a tee, Tomb had moments that felt a bit…disjointed? underdeveloped? But I read an ARC, remember, and sometimes changes are made to the manuscripts before the final sales product hits shelves/websites.
And please don’t let this minor notice deter you from this very fun, interesting, exciting, and sometimes poignant series. It hits a lot of high notes, and it’s appropriate YA fantasy, without feeling at all stodgy or too silly. Recommended for fans of fairytale re-tellings and modern-ish fantasy, of all ages.