Today, Novel Notions is hosting a guest post by Nils from The Fantasy Hive. This is what Nils has to say:
I read Code of the Communer for SPFBO 2020 as a judge with The Fantasy Hive. Petrik has kindly let me write a guest review post on Novel Notions as I’d like to help bring some spotlight to a book I feel is far too underrated.
Code of the Communer by Kai Greenwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Shadows in the Wildwood (Book #1)
Pages: 323 pages (Paperback)
Published: 17th March 2020 by Wildwood Press (Indie)
‘Sadness travelled with her like a physical thing, a miasma that enclouded her, oozing through her mind like black smoke. As she walked deeper into the trees though she felt it begin to move and flow. The Wildwood was drawing the poison from her, sucking out the emotion and dispersing it amongst the roots and branches. It would not be painless — she would relive every hurt as it passed through her body — but in time, she knew she would heal. This was the magic of the Wildwood.’
Code of the Communer by Kai Greenwood is a stunningly atmospheric old-school epic fantasy, but one with a flair of originality too. My initial impressions were extremely favourable, I was drawn right into the story from the very first page, and by the end I felt this had to be one of the most enjoyable, well written and thoroughly edited self-published books I’ve ever read. I’d also like to note how impressed I am with the cover, I recently found out that the covers in the series are hand painted by the author’s wife, and whilst they are currently working to add a few extra details to the cover as per the feedback myself and Beth from the Fantasy Hive gave, I still feel this first edition is beautiful.
Now on to my review. Although Code of the Communer has multiple POVs, we mainly follow our protagonist, Caida, as she and her tribe prepare to flee their homeland in the hopes of migrating to a safer place to live, free from the invading ‘settlers’. They embark upon a precarious journey to the mysterious Wildwood in the land of Maerida, a place which is fabled to be connected to their ancestors – the Ferliath giants. It is a journey which takes much toll on the tribe, and yet once they reach their destination they soon realise perhaps this wasn’t the safe-haven they had hoped for. Something malevolent begins to stir and awaken, the tribe begins to lose sight of their culture, and slowly they fall into dissent. The question is can Caida save them from complete ruin?
At the beginning, I believe that the narrative was a lovely slow burn with Greenwood taking time to develop the world-building and introducing our key characters. Caida, the first protagonist we meet, is a Communer, her purpose in the tribe is to communicate with a spirit known as The Long Walker. With this power inevitably comes great responsibility as the decisions of the tribe fall heavily upon her shoulders. Although Caida is riddled with doubt, unsure of herself, she bears the weight the best she can, and I truly admired her for that.
“Leadership is a heavy rock to carry, Caida, whatever form it takes. Tribal elders, parents, even spirit guides, are not perfect. Do not judge them harshly. Let your anger go before it blinds you.”
We then meet Caida’s brother, Fingle, who is less level-headed than his sister, but no less compelling. His obsession with his ancestral roots fascinated me and I found myself wanting more chapters from him, which I actually got towards the book’s climax, so I was very much satisfied.
Then there was Aldaria, who happens to be one of the most ambiguous characters within the book. Seemingly vulnerable, aged and arthritic, she holds many secrets throughout the narrative which left me always wanting to know more about her.
Aside from these compelling characters, I fell head over heels in love with the phenomenal world-building too, which I believe was extremely Tolkien-esque within its level of depth. I drank in all the descriptions of the tribe’s cultural habits, from their cuisine to ‘The rhythm of the Seasons’ where the tribe would migrate accordingly. Forests are also my most favourite setting, so when Greenwood delivered us detailed descriptions of the Wildwood in Maerida, I found them both enchanting and foreboding.
Then as the story progresses there are plenty of thrilling action scenes skilfully weaved in. I loved the way Greenwood consistently created such an ominous atmosphere during these scenes. For example whenever the characters encountered the malevolent beings which stalked them, there were some downright creepy moments where the creatures began calling Caida’s name, or they began eerily hooting, and they even began pack hunting our protagonists.
However, ultimately this book is a story of journeys – not just the physical but spiritual and personal too. Each character learns about their own faith, they have to deal with the conflict between holding on to their ancestral traditions but also adapting to survive in an ever changing world, and they have to balance their trust in their spirit guide, The Long Walker, and trusting their own judgment too. Caida and Fingle both also have much personal growth throughout as they try to find their place in the world – where exactly do they belong? And which one of the two were on the right path, remains to be seen.
I found Code of the Communer compelling and enchanting in a multitude of ways – the world-building is Tolkien-esque, the characters are wonderfully nuanced and the narrative holds so much depth. It’s easily one of my favourite reads of the year. I need the sequel!
You can order the book from: Amazon