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Full disclosure – it’s been a while since I’ve read as much fantasy writing as is put forth in J. Kyle McNeal’s first novel, Birthrights. I mention this because it makes the fact that I really enjoyed this book all the more impressive. Birthrights is an ambitious, sprawling work of fantasy that does a good job of engaging its readers. Whether I was reading about Whym, a young man with a lot of potential and an unfortunate heritage; or Quint, another young man who ventures well outside the comforts of his religious upbringing after learning to question its veracity – I cared. This is no small task, but the author succeeds in getting the reader to care about a variety of characters entwined in a plot covering enough (fantastical) land mass to require a map in its preface. McNeal also does a service to his work by shifting between locations (and characters and plot-lines with them) relatively smoothly, building meaningful backstories as he moves the narrative along. I’m hesitant to elaborate significantly on the plot, because (for both characters mentioned above, and still others, but particularly Whym) it twists a lot, and that’s a big part of what makes the work effective. The author has built the hell out of the world that unfolds in Birthrights, and no succinct description I could give would do that world justice.
Birthrights does bear some signs of it being the author’s first published novel. It feels (at times) like it borrows thematically from other works in the genre, and there are spots where McNeal’s writing is weighted down by being overly descriptive. That said, the quality of the work as a whole prevents these issues from feeling like anything more than growing pains. Birthrights represents the first in a series of books, and it’s certainly a strong start.
The standard by which I recommend any book is one of value. I can safely say I’ve gotten hours of entertainment from reading Birthrights, still more from thinking about it, and I’m sure I’ll read it again before Broken Oaths, the next book in the series (due in 2018) comes out. I’d happily fork over the money to have this in my library, and feel totally comfortable advising other fantasy/light fantasy/fiction readers of the same.
Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal is an expansive and exciting work of fantasy that holds the reader’s interest over well-written terrain.
Want to read it for yourself?
Birthrights is scheduled for release on June 6, 2017. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon – you can order it by clicking here.
Hear the author on our podcast!
J. Kyle McNeal appeared on our podcast back in March. To listen to his interview, click here.