Ashrinn Chimekin is a Fugitive Recovery Agent tasked with helping the crew of the Shrike in their pursuit of the rogue Cult of Atraxia. When something goes horribly wrong during an infiltration attempt on the cult’s compound, Ashrinn and the crew find themselves on a strange, new world. Worse yet, the cultists made their way to this new world as well.
Told that the capture of the cultists will lead them back home, the simple task becomes much harder when Ashrinn and the crew discover the cultists have allied themselves with the Darkriders, people who will stop at nothing to gain total control over their world. And making matters worse, the cultists have gained mysterious, dangerous magic powers.
Ashrinn forges alliances with the Dragonlords, the force in opposition to the Darkriders, in hopes of stopping both the cultists and the Darkriders once and for all. As she fights, she finds herself getting closer to uncovering the mystery behind the black sword that appears when she’s in dire need - and if it will affect her desire to return home.
Path of the Warrior is the initial novel in the Keverynn series, a science-fantasy proposal by Melissa Stone. A book that feels difficult to classify into a concrete genre, as while it feels like a portal fantasy most of the time, there are several elements that could be ascribed to sci-fi. A story marked by the extensive worldbuilding labour made by Stone in Keverynn's world.
Ashrinn is one of the Agents tasked with capturing the remainings of the cult of Atraxia; an infiltration mission that won't go as they thought, finding herself and the crew of the Shrike in the middle of a new unknown world; and worse, the cultists have also been transported to it.
After learning that the portal to their world won't open without the presence of the cult members, our group will be forced to fulfill their task, a task that has become more difficult, as the cultists seem to have gained powers, and have forged an allegiance with the Darkriders, a group looking to get the control of the world of Keverynn. Forced by circumstances, Ashrinn will have to look for the help of the Dragonlords, the force opposing Darkriders, and in the process, will start being able to convoke a mysterious dark blade, whose secrets might be key in the mission.
It is interesting how Stone has taken the concept of portal fantasy, and has created a story that travels between two secondary worlds, giving most of the narrative weight to the mission on Keverynn lands. Despite the conflict with the Atraxia's cult in the first world is the main reason to advance the plot, once we are in Keverynn, our characters become part of a much bigger conflict, the war between the Darkriders and those who oppose their expansionist plans.
The story is told from two POVs, one being Ashrinn, who will be our main character, trying to fulfill her quest, and that has started to be able to summon a blade in her most compromised moments; and a second one following Asharos, the High Priest of Atraxia, leader of the cultists, allied with the Darkriders, as they share beliefs. With those two points, we are able to see how the conflict advances on both sides.
Characters are another of the aspects that shine in this book, as they are well developed and created, with each own flaws. Stone is not afraid to introduce difficult subthemes with those characters, touching some that are really fitting nowadays, such as drug abuse, destructive cults, and terminal illnesses.
Pacing is probably one of the aspects I feel could have been improved in this book, as despite it starting really well, full of action, it drags in the middle of the book, picking back for the final quarter or so. While it is not exactly a problem, introducing some info about Keverynn's world makes this aspect suffer.
Said that, if you are looking for a different kind of fantasy, with some sci-fi touches, Path of the Warrior is a great book, especially if you love magical creatures and extensive worldbuilding. I have been caught in Ashrinn's story, and honestly, want to read the second book soon!
Disclaimer: I received a copy as part of the Book Tour with Escapist Book Company. This hasn't influenced my rating or my review.
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Melissa Stone lives in Cut Knife, Saskatchewan with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys a variety of handicrafts, art, and working at the local library.
She writes primarily in the fantasy genre and currently has a few projects on the go. She’s self-published several novels to date, though none traditionally.