Books, Reviews

Dragons & magic beyond the veil – J. Michael Radcliffe’s THE GUARDIAN’S APPRENTICE


This year, I’ve read several short stories by J. Michael Radcliffe, including those included in the Mind’s Eye anthologies ‘Triptychs‘, and ‘Tales From The Cacao Tree‘. I also dove into ‘Scale of a Dragon‘, and ‘A Touch of Darkness’ – two short stories set in Radcliffe’s ‘Beyond The Veil’-universe where magic and dragons are ever-present, and where the world of wizards and witches intertwines with the reality we all know and see around us every day.

Both ‘Scale of a Dragon’ and ‘A Touch of Darkness’ intrigued me with their mix of devious and flawed characters, dragons who might be good or evil or something in between, and a story-verse where things often take a darker turn than you might initially expect. (I’m a sucker for that, I do confess.) After all those short stories, I felt it was time to read Radcliffe’s fantasy novel ‘The Guardian’s Apprentice – Beyond The Veil Book One’.

This books takes the reader on a rollicking and exciting journey into the magical world “beyond the veil” – the world of magic that has been separated (for humanity’s protection) from our everyday world. The story follows what happens to Keegan, a more or less regular office-drone (who is in possession of a rather strange ring…), when he is quite unexpectedly summoned by his wizardly grandfather to join the world of magic. Keegan leaves his mundane existence behind, and goes through a portal to a realm of dragons, spells, curses, oracles, goblins, witches, and wizards.

He is thrown into some pretty serious trouble right off the bat (dealing with dragons and giants and poisons and whatnot!), and has to adjust to not just a different world, but the fact that he himself is different than he previously believed: he certainly never realized that he had magical powers before, and getting used to wielding them turns out to be quite a challenge.

I won’t give away too much of the plot, but this is a terrific fantasy tale, full of great characters that are both evil, good, and somewhere in between, and it also has a sense of humour mixed in with the darkness and the shadows. It appeals to me that Keegan is not a one-dimensional goodie-goodie as a protagonist, but a troubled man who is both thrilled and frightened by the new world he finds and the new powers within him. He is also beset by fears and doubts, and has a temper that turns out to be both a blessing and a curse.

Radcliffe’s dragons also stand out as characters: this tale features several of them, and each one has quite a distinct personality and agenda. As the quote goes: “it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons”.

I will definitely be checking out part 1 and 2 in this trilogy: ‘Bloodstone – The Guardians Curse’, and ‘Rise of the Shadow’.

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