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Reviewed by Caitlin Lyle Farley for Readers' Favorite
Ohr is beset with dangers: a wall of magical flames slowly consumes the land and the tyrannical Warden Savairo’s obsession with blood magic has brought the populace to its knees. Escapees from the capital city have found refuge in Solpate Forest, a place where the trees walk and the animals are covered in bark and petals instead of fur or feathers. Kole is an apprentice Shepherd, trained to ride the rambling trees, whose eagerness to earn his title from Master Russé instead leads Kole to a peril advancing on the refugee camp he calls home. Kole and everyone he cares about abandon their camp and flee, but on their journey south a new danger emerges: A kayetan—one of the creatures spawned from Savairo’s experiments with dark magic—is loose in the forest, hunting for refugees.
Parris Sheets’ YA epic fantasy, Warden’s Reign, kicks off the Essence of Ohr series by drawing readers into a richly imagined world of walking trees, imprisoned gods, and the corruption of dark magic. Kole has a complicated relationship with his mentor, Russé, and camp leader, Goren, which is further aggravated by the discovery that they’ve been keeping secrets from him. These frictions add intrigue while Kole’s proud determination to prove himself introduces an element of excitement as the kayetan stalks the refugees through Solpate Forest. A layered world mythology folds into the gripping plot, and disaster forces the refugees to make a decision that will decide their future. Unique, imaginative, and well-crafted world-building and a plot rife with danger and startling discoveries make for addictive reading.