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Uncaged Review – Song by Jesse Teller

Jesse Teller
Dark Fantasy

Some of the darkest minds in Perilisc attacked Mending Keep, releasing all its prisoners. Despite his strained relationship with the crown, Rayph Ivoryfist calls old friends to his aid in a subversive attempt to protect King Nardoc and thwart terrorist plots to ruin the Festival of Blossoms. But someone else is targeting Rayph, and even his fellow Manhunters might not be enough to save him.

Uncaged Review: Rayph Ivoryfist, a powerful 10,000-year-old wizard who is enjoying a much-deserved vacation from his warden and wizarding duties, is informed that the prison Mending Keep has been attacked; all the prisoners have been freed. When one of the prisoners, Julius Kriss, makes plans to assassinate the king, Rayph gathers a group of “Manhunters” to stop him.

This book is written beautifully and is very engaging and enjoyable to read. The editing was great as well. The story is told from the perspective of two people, Rayph the wizard and Konnan the bounty hunter/father. The “slow”/”boring” scenes are minimal, and the creativity of this author really amazed me. The magic in this book seemed very unique, and that’s something that is hard to find in fantasy. For example, Rayph hides things in pocket dimensions, uses fetishes (bat skulls in this case) to communicate, stores spirits in pottery while projecting elsewhere, and so much more. There were unique kinds of races and multiple kinds of magic used in the book, and the lines between friend and foe were blurry at times (that always makes for a good story.) Some of the scenes just made my jaw drop with how beautiful and/or powerful they were. The imagery in this book is very effective. The storyline was definitely not cookie-cutter, and there were plenty of twists and turns and surprises that I enjoyed. The characters had a lot of depth, and the messages of justice were consistent.

Rayph is a very interesting character. I was definitely not solid on his background or the extent of his power in the beginning (although it became a little clearer as the book progressed). He apparently is very old and powerful, and he has (had?) a wife that we don’t get to hear much about. His motivations are not clear, but what is clear is that he cares about his country. I would really love to hear more of his story in future books. The thing I like most about Rayph is that he has a good sense of justice. Although he is very powerful, he avoids killing innocent people. He continues to protect the king, for the good of the country, despite the fact that the king is literally trying to kill him. I did think Konnan was easier to relate to as a parent. His motivation made sense, and like Rayph, his ethics/morals also seemed just. The supporting characters were written well and made the story interesting and fun. Smear was such a pleasant character, and I was happy with what happened with him in the end :).
My only “issue” with this book is that things are not very well defined. The book has a tremendous amount of richness to it, but readers are essentially “thrown into the thick of things.” It ends up working out okay, and I can understand why an author wouldn’t want to artificially introduce a lot of dry background information. I have seen that done in fantasy too often (an author will spend pages and pages, if not chapters, on the history of the realm and the main characters and the types of magic they wield.) This book did not waste any time with that, which was actually a good choice overall, but it was a little hard to get into the rhythm of the book as a result. Finding a balance with this issue is difficult.
Warnings: There is a bit of violence in this book. It’s a part of the storyline though and not used often for shock value in my opinion. The disturbing and needless cruelty is recognized as evil. The killing that happens by the hand of the main characters is almost, if not always, in the name of “justice” (killing bandits and assassins). There is one sex scene in the book, but it is treated as “background noise” in a way. There is nothing explicit about it.
After reading this book, I went to Amazon to pre-order the second installment. I think this is one of those book series that will just get better with multiple readings, and I may in fact be ordering physical copies! Very nicely done, Mr. Teller!
Reviewed by Emily

4 1/2 Stars


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