Becca Ketelsleger’s new female-led fantasy saga, Rightful Heir, Book Two of the Penhalion Legacy, will be welcomed by fans who enjoyed the previously released Book One Noble Warrior, serving as the sequel, with characters from the previous book making an appearance here once again.
Adventurous 16-year-old Detta Antille is a normal enough girl who lives with her “Ma” on a small farm in the village of Fraunc, somewhere far from the sumptuous royal castle where her brother resides, in Bryton. But when her mother dies, she must travel with her brother to the royal city, where he serves the King as a Knight of the Round Table, only to be met across the sea with yet another tragedy – the death of the King himself, leaving the royal family and court to argue over the will and who will take the crown.
Author Ketelsleger has written many intricate descriptions of nature and farm life that gives Detta a backstory of a simple country girl thrown into a royal feud that spirals out of control into a populist movement that gets behind Detta as the true claimant to the crown.
Apparently loosely based on the Arthurian myth, the writing is an odd combination of historical fiction and fantasy world, as historical fact is not followed in any particular way, with elements of modern-day life thrown in that seem a little off-kilter in the mix. Some characters remain originally named, such as Morgana, but others are renamed, such as King Aidan. Although fantasy fiction often goes into an alternative world, the elements within the book’s universe should be consistent. Here, this doesn’t happen.
If this oversight can be forgiven in favor of the story, the editing cannot be. Sentences are often poorly constructed with much word redundancy, with the author insisting on multiple turgid dialog tags and overstated phrases throughout, with a lack of care in editing the text even in a basic way – words are misspelled throughout: “unwieldly” instead of unwieldy, and “unleased” instead of “unleashed” to name just a couple of examples.
The text is also written with US English grammar and voice, which seems out of place in the world of the tale. The story is slow to start as well, and the minutiae of Detta’s life seems to drag on in places. Again, a sharp edit would have dealt with this issue. The sleek novel that Rightful Heir could have been is, as a result of these fundamental issues, left sitting inside of a much fleshier work, which is a shame, because there is much to enjoy here.
Characters are easy to cheer for, and the female flavor will be popular with those readers fed up with “grunts and beards” style sword sagas, especially in the throes of most of the fantasy book-reading world’s obsession with Game of Thrones. However, the author will need to work on research and presentation to bring this series to the more serious fans of this genre.