The King’s Challenge: A Quest for Eternal Life by Lucas Zahn is a fantasy adventure for adults and young adults. Matthew has interesting dreams. He recounts them to his fellow pupils at school, adventures about soldiers and orks. But now freshly graduated, he has a dream in which is told he must meet The King’s Challenge. As instructed he hooks up with two seemingly unreliable wizards Alban and Jacob – two drunks that know a bit of magic, as they describe themselves – and sets out on the two-year quest with its extreme demand to find eternal life. This is a tall order for a youngster and doesn’t bode too well. However, it transpires he’s in a good team and their various character traits and abilities work well together. Matthew has enthusiasm even if he lacks confidence at times, Alban tends to boldly rush in impetuously and Jacob is a planner and pacifier.

This is an impressive debut novel for a young writer. It’s written in the present tense which is tricky to handle and is often thought to be a little grating to readers. However, it’s generally well handled here and the tense and the author’s clear, almost factual recounting add to the immediacy and effectiveness of the story. As with most fantasies it encompasses a journey that is both physical and spiritual. Matthew travels and develops throughout this novel. Good battles evil and we come across all the usual culprits in the form of elves, dwarves, orks, mages and dragons, not forgetting an oracle, but Zahn gives each race his own spin to keep his handling of this genre fresh and original. The plot is interesting and keeps the reader guessing. All in all, a very entertaining and thoughtfully written novel, with, one hopes, more to come in the series.

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