The Ruins on Stone Hill (Heroes of Ravenford Book 1) is about a bunch of guys getting together to have adventures. Using both physical weapons and magic, they fight off orcs, giants, golems and wicked wizards, usually destroying the bad creatures in the process. It’s a bit of a romp, and as such, it’s enjoyable. Unfortunately, I look for a bit more in a fantasy novel.
To me, fantasy novels offer the potential of placing a hero (male or female) on a quest that we as readers can identify with, allowing us to cheer those heroes on and celebrate when obstacles are overcome. The quest should involve something of moral or ethical value. A grail. The destruction of an object that could allow the baddest guy around to rule the world. Something worth fighting and dying for. In this book, the first quest to map a keep and potentially recover a scroll for a probably good wizard is taken on with a promise of payment in the end. To me, money doesn’t quite meet my criteria for a quest.
In addition, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot. Jumping from one adventure to the next, with little or no connection between them (save for the fact the two most important people in the town—the mayor and the wizard—are the ones sending them out) does not a plot make. Which leaves me thinking that the only plot in this is what it takes to pull this group together. And for a story about adventures, we sure skipped the third one fast. They started out, and then they were home again.
As a woman and a writer of fantasy myself, I found the stereotypes of the few female characters a bit too much to handle. Kailay, the barmaid at the local establishment, has doe-eyes for Lloyd, the big, strong, handsome human in the group. She is “buxom” and referred to twice in three paragraphs as she is introduced as a “young girl.” That really got to me. She’s not a child (I hope). And then, when Kailay recognizes that Lloyd has eyes for another, she completely falls apart. Be still my feminist heart (and mouth). Three other women of minor prominence have equally boxed-in roles—all of them noble, beautiful, well-educated and practically perfect. And then there’s the half-human, half-orc warrior woman who shows up briefly, fights valiantly (a little Xena warrior princess there), but, being on the wrong side, cannot be allowed to survive. Now, she was interesting.
On the picky side, I found some of the language to be a little too modern. To me, a fantasy set in a typically semi-medieval world should watch the modern clichés and metaphors. I was jarred out of the story several times with phrases such as “picture perfect” (which to me implies a camera being involved somewhere).