Hidden Realm (Legends of Lightning, Book One), by T. R. Slauf
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Today, I’m excited to be reviewing Hidden Realm (Legends of Lightning, Book One), by T. R. Slauf.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
Esther, a young librarian is asked to appraise an old German translation of a Grimm fairytale book, however, there’s something odd about it that she just can’t put her finger on. On top of this, she starts to have dreams of a Huntsman named Oisin who says she is the next Realm Walker.
Esther soon finds out that she was found as a child, covered in blood, with amnesia. Now, a great evil stalks her and she is the only one who can put a stop to it. She is the Realm Walker of an ancient prophecy and must travel to another dark realm to help fight a mysterious war.
As wolves attack villages in growing numbers, Esther has yet to truly understand the full reality of her true nature and the part she must play in said war.
Of all the characters involved, this review will focus on the following three: Esther, Oisin, and The Crimson Shadow.
Esther Wan works at her local library and loves delving into books to briefly become someone other than herself. She seeks to escape from her everyday world, to ‘find her true place in the world.’ Esther is dedicated to her work, however, strange nightmares have been plaguing her as of late, growing ever more surreal. Before long she finds herself in another realm as the next realm walker, a position of enormous responsibility. Over the course of the story, Esther demonstrates great courage and determination while fighting to save citizens of this other realm from an army of insidious creatures. Esther is essentially thrown into the deep end, knowing nothing of her role as realm walker. Gradually, we see her transform, from a timid librarian, to a fierce and stubborn warrior who always does what she thinks is right, even if it’s extremely risky. I found myself admiring Esther’s character greatly due to the sheer amount of change she undergoes and how she puts the safety of others before her own.
Oisin, a huntsman, proves to be strong yet kind and acts as Esthers protector right from the start. At first, he appeared to be quite mysterious, hiding his face with his hood at all times. It is only later that we learn he has a heavily scarred face which he dislikes showing others and a tragic backstory to accompany it. He shuts people out due to past trauma in his life, something which had me empathising greatly with his character. As Esther’s sworn protector, he was always loyal to her, trying to keep her safe, even if she took big risks in order to try and save others. Overall, Oisin proved to be a steadfast friend and a courageous man, who would do anything to protect his beloved realm walker.
Finally, we come to The Crimson Shadow, here nicknamed because of the blood red cloak they wear and how they move stealthily like a shadow in the night. When first introduced in the story, we see them only as a mysterious red-caped figure who commands misshapen creatures known only as the wolves. These terrible monsters do their bidding, savaging citizens all across the realms. However, as time goes on, we become privy to the backstory of this heinous villain, learning about their difficult and often traumatic life, which they have fought hard to overcome. Reading about their dire childhood, I came to both fear and admire them for the sheer strength of will they have cultivated. Although you’re often supposed to root against the villain of a story, I actually ended up empathizing with their plight and found it hard to dislike them overall, finally coming to understand their rationale for committing such terrible acts.
There were many positives when it came to reading Hidden Realm, many of which are listed below.
- The world building was done masterfully, with kingdoms centred around fairytale figures known to us in the modern day.
- The author skillfully paints the first setting we see- as dark, tense, and dangerous, focusing on the minute details so the reader can feel truly immersed in the setting, and get a good sense of how the character feels about being there.
- I found it adorable that Esther talked to her cat, having proper, full on amusing conversations with it.
- The author sprinkles an infectious type of humour into the pages of the story, which made me light up with laughter at various points.
- The scenes play out naturally, with much dialogue and less description, mimicking real life scenarios. This made for easy reading and comprehension of events.
- Hearing about The Crimson Shadow’s traumatic past had me empathizing with them on a deep level. I simply couldn’t see them as a true villain after being privy to such events.
- The characters were fascinating in themselves. They were a unique twist on characters such as Red Riding Hood, The Beast, Princess Aurora, etc. Learning about their re-created histories, which were often full of trauma was interesting as they showed us how they came to be who they are today, twisted versions of the fairytale characters we know and love.
There were several quotes which caught my attention while reading Hidden Realm, the four below being the most prominent.
1) ‘An army of desperate souls given shallow promises can be formidable.’
2) ‘It was you who imprisoned yourself by not testing the boundaries given to you by another.’
3) ‘None of them is innocent. The ones who watch the horrors happen and say nothing are the real monsters; they must be held accountable for their complacence.’
4) ‘Not everyone has the courage to stand up; they don’t think they hold any power. They fear the retribution of the corrupt.’
Overall, Hidden Realm proved to be a dark and gripping fantasy tale which follows the journey of Esther, the newest realm walker as she tries to find her bearings in a nightmare realm.
Core themes included; identity, power, our pasts (and how they have shaped us), and war.
My Rating: 5 stars.
Recommended to: lovers of dark fairytale novels.
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