Review: Embellished: A Vadarc Novel (Chronicles of Orian Book 1) by Karen Glista

★★★★ Embellished: A Vardac Novel (Chronicles of Orian Book 1) by Karen Glista

When eighteen-year-old Travis Kurth lures his sister Bekka in to his online game, nobody expects the game to get so real.

As both Travis and Bekka and the rest of their online party are sucked into the fantastical world of Orian, mystery after mystery reveal themselves. Where, exactly, are they? How did they get there? Why is Bekka’s debilitating illness suddenly in complete remission?

With confusion in their minds, their hopes of a quick rescue are dashed as war clashes in their midst, claiming their party and tearing its members apart. A royal entourage sweeps in, only to lose Bekka to the bizarre, animalistic enemies, the Vadarc. Soon Bekka finds herself not only in the center of a bloody war, but caught between the deadly affections of a Vadarc prince named Randar, and her rescuer, Vallas. Are these young new heroes able to change fate, and save Bekka, if not the world?

Embellished is the first Chronicles of Orian book by Karen Glista, and an intriguing start at that. The book does effectively – if somewhat stereotypically, and with a slight twang of anachronism faintly reminiscent of the 1990s – portray the kinds of habits and mannerisms of gamers. No doubt many a familiar reader will smile and nod as they recognize the kind of phrases being thrown around, especially toward the start of the book:

“I reckon you both know this would be a total fail without my online bae. She’s one hell of a healer,” he extolled, the computer chair creaking beneath his two hundred and forty-pound frame. His brow furrowed. “I just hope she’s really a girl.”

The book also does push a few limits with how Bekka in particular is treated, both in the more grueling parts of her story and in the more extolling moments. In fact, the start of the book is a little rough to get through in general as the “darkest hour” of the narrative hits hard and fast. This does make sense later in each characters’ arc, especially Bekka’s, however how much one might feel it pays off from earlier injustices may vary from reader to reader, depending on one’s ability to look beyond it, as some moments hover uncomfortably close to the gratuitous.

Still, it’s hard to particularly mark anything down on these points given the book is out-and-proud a somewhat indulgent fantasy piece, and the use of a few cut-out characters as a starting point is no sin when what is done with them works. And it does. The group shows definite growth throughout the book, or at least what’s left, and together they create a colorful – and, importantly, rarely too predictable – cast. Add in a thoroughly-imagined world of adventure and the machinations of geopolitical strife and bloody war and you’ve got yourself a compelling YA-oriented read.

The book delivers on what it promises: fantasy hi-jinks and self-indulgent fun, as well as romance and adventure, which is only the start of a long journey to come. Embellished is a solid new paranormal romance adventure that fans of the genre will surely enjoy. For fans of Embellished, the second novel in the series, Extolled, is already available, while the third book is soon to be released.

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Embellished (Chronicles of Orian Book 1)