Book Reviews, Fantasy

Review: Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

Almost five hundred years have passed since the Seasons were at war.

Half a millennium since Winter defied Spring, and lost. Generations have come and gone, not knowing the bitter freeze and howling snows of Winter ever existed. But now, after centuries of silence, the participants in this ancient struggle have resurfaced and reignited their feud on the doorstep of an unassuming little kitchen boy.

Garlan’s dreams of being just like the knights he idolizes may not be as impossible as he has always been led to believe, when he is chased from his home and thrust headlong into the kind of adventure he had only ever read about in books. Setting out on a journey that spans the entire kingdom of Faeland, Garlan will traverse impossible mountains and stormy seas and battle terrible monsters, all to keep the world he knows safe from an enemy who will stop at nothing to bring about a never-ending winter. With a cast of fantastical characters to aid him in his quest, can Garlan overcome his self-doubt and find the courage he needs to rise above his humble station and become the hero he always dreamed of being? The fate of the world rests in his hands.

Thank you to the author, Mark Cushen, for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What a lovely story! It has an old-fashioned feel to it, with its chivalry, its personification of natural elements, and its talking animals, and I felt transported to my early days of reading while following Garlan on his adventures. Having said that, though, there is also something fresh about Cushen’s writing, so the plot was still new and exciting. The thing that intrigued me before I even started was the concept of the seasons at war; I may have mentioned this before but I absolutely love stories about great forces using the human world as their chess board, be it gods, primordial beings, or the embodiment of the four seasons. So those parts were definitely my favourite. Add to that the stories of the Fae, the myth of the great Kingfisher that defeated a giant serpent, and a frosty and elusive villain and I was good to go!

‘Let me take you to the kingdom of Faeland, in a period long since forgotten to time, when dragons soared and giants roamed, and the animals could still speak the same words as the people with whom they shared the world.’

The beginning of the story, when we meet Garlan, is the one part that I had to push through, because it is the very overdone trope of the young orphan servant who dreams of adventure, and then gets chosen for a world-saving quest, but I think the author was leaning into that, and Garlan does become more three-dimensional as the story progresses and other characters join him on his travels. In fact, I’d say that where Cushen stayed in the familiar with his protagonist, he certainly didn’t hold back on the side characters: there is a floating head made of wood, and a fox-like spirit that guards the forest and has a tail that can turn into little birds. Garlan meets many other people along the way, too, and they were all fascinating to read.

The best way to describe Little White Hands is to say that it has the feel of The Lord of the Rings if it were written in the style of The Hobbit. It has the elements of the great journey, the fellowship, and the young unassuming hero being the one to save the world, but it has the charm and magical feeling that you get from reading something like The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia. You know it’s all fantastical and you kind of know where the story is going but it still transports you and makes you wish it were real. I look forward to seeing what else Mark Cushen does in the future, because I really like his style and imagination, and especially the way he uses nature in his writing. This book is great for all ages, so whether you want to pick it up for yourself or for your child, it’s well worth doing!

Book Info

Published: 1st May 2021 by Mark Cushen
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 268
Series: Garlan Greatheart, book one
Narration style: third person, single perspective
Format read: ebook

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