“The Sapling” by Dan Gillis

“The Sapling” is the story of a young pickpocket, Firah, who has a secret destiny–of course she does! The “secret chosen one” is classic fantasy; what I appreciated about this take on it was making the main character a female pickpocket. Firah is brash and naive, but slowly matures over the course of the book, and by the end passes the first stage in her coming-of-age.

The style of the story alternates between epic fantasy, with a great clash between good and evil, and sword-and-sorcery, with “low” characters such as pickpockets and innkeepers, and lots of fight scenes. I thought this was an interesting approach, although sometimes it could be a little stylistically jarring: the language goes back and forth between a modern, colloquial style and the “high style” characteristic of the highest of high/epic fantasy, something that works better in some scenes than others. This book is clearly interested in the “big” questions that often come up in high/epic fantasy, but there is a lot of weight given to action scenes as well, so fans of that kind of thing will find a lot to enjoy.

The characters are deliberately complex, and I quite enjoyed the arrogant naïveté of the younger characters, and of the older characters’ flashbacks! There is some budding romance and the revival of old flames that shows promise for a continuation of the story. The worldbuilding is also complex; the book includes a map and a glossary at the end, which is a nice touch. I was able to follow along without them, but they served as a handy reference, and it’s always nice to see that the author has thought their world through and made it internally consistent.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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