Review: The Empyrean Key

the empyrean keyNovel: The Empyrean Key (Ardentia #1) by J.L. Tomlinson
Published: August 23rd, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 3/5 stars

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I received this book from the author -thank you!- in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.

Synopsis: Jahna Mornglow is a thief, a liar and an unassuming misfit, a half-breed of the loathed and ostracized Narcean race, born with the abilities of prophecy and telepathy. The dull monotony of her beachside home is eased by nights in the outer villages, scamming unsuspecting fishermen out of their hard earned coin. It is the most fun and profit Jahna and her friends, a brawling barmaid and a bullied bookworm, can expect from their lower class lives. The land of Ardentia is vast and magical, carved by the Celestial gods and ruled by their mortal descendants. With a once great king now mysteriously ill, a hundred years war raging in the east and whispers of the return of an ancient evil, Ardentia’s fate balances on the tip of a blade. The ghosts of Jahna’s past will call upon her, revealing hidden enemies, precious secrets and a fragmented artifact that will breath new life into the myths of old.


 First of all, I want to thank the author for her patience. She kindly sent me an ebook months ago, and I’ve only now come around to reading and reviewing it. 

This book should be right up my alley. It’s a fantasy novel -which is my favorite genre- about three friends, a dying king, an ancient evil and cultures with special abilities.  Doesn’t that all sound so epic? Plus, the reviews on Goodreads are so positive and exciting. So I was intrigued by The Empyrean Key! And while I did enjoy it, I have to say that it wasn’t totally for me. So let’s get into it. 


We start the story when Jahna, Silko and Lilac are in their hometown, Groden Cove. It’s a very small village near the sea and all three of them want to leave. They’re saving up money –by scamming people in what seems like an incredibly cool game– so they can leave. Unfortunately, some things happen and they are forced to leave with a different purpose in mind. I do think that this all sounds really cool. And I did enjoy the plot of the story. When there was action, I was engrossed. But that’s where one of my “meh-aspects” of this book falls: I felt like a lot of this book was filler. It takes a long time for the three to get on the road, which you already know happens from the synopsis. So while I was reading, I was just waiting for what I knew was going to happen.

The first part felt really slow to me, which made it harder to really get into the story. The second part is much more action-packed, and a lot of other characters are introduced. This part captured my attention much more easily and I went through it much faster. 


As I mentioned before, each of the characters had a reason to leave. Silko wants to visit the famous library his grandparents worked at. He is the smaller and bookish one of the three and the library is his dream. Jahna wants to leave as well. She’s half Narcean, a race of people who have the ability to see visions, and (half-)Narceans aren’t the most welcome people in Ardentia, the country they live in. Lilac wants to go to battle. All of her brothers have left to fight in the army, and she is stuck helping her father in his bar. Doesn’t that all sound fantastic? 

I agree, it sounds fantastic. But I have to admit that here as well, I had some aspects I felt a bit “meh” about. For example, why are Silko and Lilac friends? Just because of Jahna? I know what it’s like to have a friend you constantly banter with. The kind of friendship where you playfully insult each other. But this was more than that. She actually tried to hit him so badly once, Jahna could barely stop her. She constantly insults everything he likes or does. He thinks -and says- that she’s a dumb brute. I just didn’t get it. Their banter was too much for me. While these characters were there for each other at times, other times they were so rude to each other! If I would have been one of them, some people would have gotten kicked in the shins. Just saying. 

At times, I loved all of them. And at other times, I just didn’t. Lilac can be very protective of her friends –a great quality– but she just seemed like the stereotype of a brute, in female form. Jahna was interesting and a great friend as well, constantly keeping the other two together, but she had a side to her that I didn’t like, and can’t really explain… And while I loved our bookish Silko, he could be really insensitive sometimes. It’s good that characters have flaws, don’t get me wrong. No one is perfect, so a character shouldn’t be either. But in this case, it sometimes truly bothered me. 

My favorite character? Arn. He shows up in the second half of this book and I’m going to be honest: I smiled whenever I read his name. He is such a fun and interesting character! 


Like I said before, this book just wasn’t really for me. While I enjoyed the story, there were several aspects I had some trouble accepting. I gave this a 3-star rating because it was exactly that to me: an okay read. There are so many people who really love this book, so I suggest giving it a try if the synopsis sounds appealing to you!

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25, reader, blogger, feminist, INFJ

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