Calarel: The Beginning Journey
by Robert Gayhart
Stratton Press

"We work for a peaceful existence in the light. But there are those who would foolishly rather have the evil and darkness rule."

This sprawling fantasy epic centers on Calarel, a young half-elf who decides to leave her father's home to seek her fortune. She finds the adventure she yearns for as she travels. Confrontations with bandits, battles with strange creatures, helpful and magical companions, and more await her in her travels. As Calarel and her various allies deliver messages and perform favors for nobles and commoners alike, a pattern starts to emerge. Powerful magical forces seek her out in the form of attentive elf nobles, enchanted weapons, and demonic horses. All intimate that she has an important role to play in the coming battle between the forces of good and evil. Calarel's destiny is only partially revealed in what is likely to be the first of many collections of her adventures.

Gayhart builds an expansive, fascinating fantasy world with copious cultures, races, and regions that this book only begins to explore. Calarel's journeys balance the mundane day-to-day tasks of being a messenger with exciting adventures like slaying dragons and even the more esoteric goal of training to become a warrior for the forces of good. Fantasy aficionados will appreciate the parallels between this book and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series (and will delight at the subtle homages to Jordan throughout the novel). While the readability of the narrative would have benefited from additional editing, Gayhart's expertise in many fields is obvious in his detailed descriptions of his characters' skills and strengths, such as weaponry, equestrian knowledge, and even wagon-building. The novel's ending hints at further adventures, and with so much at stake throughout Calarel's journeys, readers will likely heartily welcome the next installment.

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