Take a sip – Thoughts on “The Birr Elixir” by Jo Sparkes

The-Birr-Elixir

by Jo Sparkes

printed by Oscar Press, Portland OR.

Tis an old Trueman saying; better to leap across a volcano than to stand too close to Legend.

From the mind of Jo Sparkes comes the first of the novels in The Legend Of The Gamesmen series.

The Book – The Birr Elixir

Gamesmen travel the realm playing Comet, a deathly and dangerous, exhilarating game of four opposing teams. The Gamesmen seek fame and for the first time in history this rag tag band of Truemen, known as The Hand Of Victory, have overcome a Team of Skullans. How? one might ask did they overtake the giant Skullans for the win? Try asking their new-found Brista, Marra, whom Drail rescued from the shop where she was apprenticed to learn potions. Marra appears to be nothing more than a mere girl, however when she manages to create the very difficult Birr Elixir, which sets the Gamesmen on the road to victory, the Gamesmen begin to see her as anything but.

As she sets off with them on the road to victory, toting along the sleepy headed stranger Tryst, Marra finds herself in a world she never imagined and begins to discover for herself that her strength and ability is more than even she could have guessed at. Strengths and abilities she may well need as danger and enemies seem to lurk at every turn. As the stranger awakes and The Hand Of Victory work their way toward the Championship, Marra hopes she can outsmart the enemies they face, long enough to figure a way out of the danger she is in. Will she learn the identity of the stranger Tryst and the secret, none of them have guessed….

With war looming in the distance, this novel will draw the reader into this mythical realm and leave you wanting more…

The Review.

Don’t you just love it when you take on a novel and author you’ve not read before and find a hidden gem. That’s what this novel should be all about. Jo Sparkes, has created a mythical realm where two races the Truemen and the Skullans co-exist, magic and potions are real, and the whole place is on the brink of a war. It’s in the midst of all this, that we meet Marra, an apprentice in what can best be described as an apothecary shop.

When we first meet Marra, our first description of her is as follows…

Marra’s dark red hair was long, and she spent a lot of time brushing the sand out. Some thought she was vain, and perhaps she was about the one thing that proclaimed she wasn’t born in San Cris. But long hair was a strength, the strength of warriors. Ans for Marra, it made her feel safer.

Marra is wonderfully written throughout the novel as she overcomes her self-doubt about her abilities, and finds she is much more capable and quick than she thought. Both her compassion and underlying strength make her delightful to read, Sparkes could not have made a better choice for a main character.

Also in this piece is Tryst, a crown prince who’s been abducted and put to sleep using some unknown means. It’s only when Marra manages to wake him, that we discover much about him, and most of that he keeps to himself, not allowing his secrets to be revealed to his fellow Gamesmen or Marra. A boy, who is getting his first taste of the world, and seeing much of what his father encouraged him to learn first hand.

You wish to rule the Skullan people without ever setting foot outside Missea?  Without talking to them in their villages, standing beside them on their ships?  You wish to decide the fate of Truemen without ever seeing who they are, how they live?

Tryst is equally well written and plays out well against the character of Marra.

Jo Sparkes has put a lot of thought into this piece, and the development of a whole realm, complete with sports, different races, history, and herbal potions, as well as a brilliantly written plot, could not have been a small undertaking. There is a lot packed into this piece, at only 175 (approximately) pages, I was worried there would not be space to pull it all together. But she did!!

If I were to nitpick at all, I would say my only struggle with this book, was that I felt I could not get my bearings for the first chapter or two, as it wasn’t readily clear where or when this book is set…My advice? Don’t worry about it, let the sand sweep you up into the story, and enjoy the ride. This one is good and will get you where you want to go.

Rating?

This is one of those, sit back with your favorite herb tea, curl up in your favorite afghan, on a long cool evening at the cottage, and enjoy. Its length, almost allows it to be read in one sitting.  It is just what it seems, a wonderfully written fantasy that will draw you into the story, and leave you with a smile on your face (unless you are as impatient to get to book two as I am). Let Jo take you on a magical adventure into her wonderfully created world and I’m betting she does not disappoint.

The Author Jo Sparkes

Jo-Sparkes

Jo Sparkes graduated from Washington College. She has written feature film scripts, scripts for children’s  live action and animated television programs.  Jo has served as an adjunct teacher at the Film School of Scottsdale Community College, More recently her book “Feedback, How To Give It How To Get It has garnered strong praise. When not perfecting her craft, she can be found exploring Portland with her husband Ian and their dog Oscar.

To learn more about Jo visit http://josparkes.com/

 

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