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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Alexander Sotberg introduces readers to his new fantasy series The Xanador Saga with the first book, Secrets of the Elementals. Garon has pretty much nothing going for him. He is orphaned, singled out by other students and teachers as an outlet for anger, and gets expelled after he is finally able to give an animal-torturing bully a taste of his own bruising medicine. While fleeing into the forest before another physical encounter gets worse, Garon finds himself lost. Or is he really home? The voice of his Elemental, Aqo, leads Garon through a portal where he begins to discover his past, his identity, his parents, and his purpose. He also discovers the danger he's in, as Garon is no simple human weaver with magic in his birth realm of Xanador, and Aqo is no common Elemental, but a dual elemental that possesses two elemental affinities — and that makes Garon a threat to a force far greater than a schoolyard bully.
There are so many contenders in the fantasy genre that it is both difficult to find a series that's worth committing to and even more difficult to find one with a fresh twist that can be easily consumed by a younger readership. Secrets of the Elementals by Alexander Sotberg is that book, and The Xanador Saga is that series. From the word go, Sotberg begins his character building through well-paced tension and a look at Garon's frailty, which stems primarily from trauma and the natural insecurity of youth, but also his flashes of strength and determination that arise from attacks against the more vulnerable. There are two things in particular that Sotberg works through the story that elevates it above its peers. The first is with the magic system and the depth it is given, which we are fortunate as readers to learn about in exactly the same way Garon does. That connects us to Garon and allows for an organic progression of understanding Xanador and the magic. The second is with alternating points of view that enhance this aspect, and alliances he forms along the way. The writing is tight, the dialogue is wonderful, and the book as a whole is just pure magic. Very highly recommended.