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Book Review: Union of Renegades by Tracy Falbe

Genre: Epic Fantasy
Pub. Date: January 2006
ISBN: 097622352X
ISBN-13: 9780976223528
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Brave Luck Books

Sometimes you just can�t enjoy a novel as much as you would like. For no particular reason, it just wasn�t a book that excited your imagination. Union of Renegades, Book I of the Rys Chronicles by Tracy Falbe, was one such for me.

The story is almost like a Grimm�s fairy-tale. An evil Queen lurks in a wood, preying on humans for power. In the meantime, Miranda and Dreibrand, characters on the edge of the great wood, find themselves on the run for their lives. Little do they know the evil they are running toward as they enter the forest at the edge of civilization.

Falbe has done two things I thought were really interesting. First, she has her heroine, Miranda, be a mother of two children, one a child and the other a baby. And these two children are not just side notes or characterization for the story. They are in fact integral to the plot, without them there would be no story. That is not something I have seen done before in a fantasy, and I thought that was a brave move on the part of Falbe. She does integrate the children well into the story, and Miranda�s motivations toward them are accurate and moving for a mother in her plight.

Secondly, Falbe has created a unique magic system. Magical power is a result of age and experience, and is limited to particular races, who look like human (except for their blue skin) but behave very differently. Some authors turn their other races into alternate humans who are distinguished only be their looks, not their society or their behavior. Falbe has really made the Rys a different race, difficult to understand for humans, and thereby adding some interesting plot.

Yet sometimes you just can�t get into a novel. And that is not because it isn�t good. The Midwest book review called The Rhys Chronicles �”A grand saga of intrigue, betrayal, magic, power, and dominance unfolds. An exciting treat for fantasy buffs…” and the review at Fantasybookspot (whom I respect) said �”I found the main characters relationship quite interesting… The magical system…is quite interestingly used throughout the plot.” Yet I did not enjoy the book overall.

In part that is because I felt that Miranda and Dreibrand�s relationship (the heroine and hero, respectively) was forced and didn�t make sense in the context. I think that Falbe would have done better to have the characters develop this relationship in later books. I also felt that sometimes, not always, the dialogue was wooden and seemed out of character for the descriptions or the place and time. Dreibrand�s fascination with Miranda�s body seemed better suited to a badly written romance than a well-written fantasy.

Beyond that, the plot didn�t intrigue me. It had some good elements, and Falbe has interwoven some of her own life experiences into the novel, adding an element of realism to the story, but the story was just not interesting. Perhaps Falbe would have been better off had she cut some scenes to speed up the plot�s pace, and didn�t insist on inserting action where none needed to take place.

The story has potential, I just feel that Falbe was too eager to be published, took it upon herself to publish the novel, and as a result formed a decent book that had the potential to be great, if she had had the benefit of a major publisher. Still, she must have done something right, as there are now four books in the series, the most recent being published this year.

I do not wholly recommend Union of Renegades. If you are tired of some of the tropes of fantasy, you might find this enjoyable, or are willing to move past the sometimes wooden dialogue or out of character behavior. The plot itself is quite good, and has a lot of potential and is interesting, but I just couldn�t find myself enjoying it.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it. Brave Luck Books has made a copy of Union of Renegades available for free as an ebook.