Publication Date: April 03, 2012
An Ancient Prophecy. A Powerful Relic. An Insatiable Evil. When all three converge, the fate of every living thing will be in peril.
All her life Catherine had hoped to see a fairrier cat. No book, no scroll provided to her by her tutors had ever mentioned this legend, much to her frustration, and now-at the worse possible time-she was getting her wish. Only, in her wish the cat wasn't about to kill her.
A 732-year-old fairrier cat the size of a horse has killed his fair share of hunters. Driven to the brink of extinction for the supernatural powers of his coat, is he indeed the last of his kind?
Sheltered, 16-year-old Catherine is about to find out. Unwitting heir to the Ancient Onyxes, she flees an arranged marriage only to stumble upon the cat's secrets, the force of the ancient relic she wears, and the dangerous mission they must undertake.
Hidden under a desert that was once a fertile land, millions of predators are waiting to feast again. Catherine must discover the secret of the Ancient Onyxes and stop the creatures known as trodliks before they consume everything in their path. A whispered prophecy becomes her only guide and a rejected suitor just might be the one warrior she desperately needs.
What a refreshingly wonderful book! When I finished reading Candlewax I was happy. There weren't any niggling complaints about the book teasing at the happiness, nor unsatisfied expectations from an abrupt cliffhanger. Candlewax is quite simply a tight, well-written, interesting, fun fantasy novel for young adults.
Sims' world building is just fabulous; at once I was transported into her world, and there were no frayed edges to trip me up. Even the most fantastic elements had been incorporated in such a way that they fit seamlessly with the others. I completely believed in Lackanay, Cinna, and Candlewax. Yes, there was quite a bit of exposition in the dialog at times, but it rarely felt like info-dumping. Sims' dialog was both plausable and interesting, and the history and adventure unfolded together in a beautifully harmonious sort of way.
The characters were also just so well done! In Catherine we have a believably flawed, beautiful, strong protagonist. Her alternating strength and vulnerability never feel forced, and the fact that she is a girl never factors in either; they are the strengths and weaknesses of any person, not a specific sex. (I think a young male reader could get wrapped up in her adventure just as easily as a female reader.) Pokos is delightful in the way only a talking cat can be, and Cyril is a strong, smart, and nice hero. He is a partner for Catherine, not just a love interest. As I read I truly felt a part of the adventure; the relationships between the characters developed in such as way that it felt like we were all getting to know each other at the same time. I learned to trust and like the characters just as they learned to trust and like each other.
And what an adventure it is! Girl running from an arranged marriage. Girl masquerading as boy. Servant masquerading as Princess. Enchanted jewelry and daggers. Enigmatic cat. Prophesies. Kingdoms to be saved. Destinies to be met. Magical beasts. Secret rooms and hidden passages. Traitors. Archery contests. Evil Kings. Thieves. Campfire cooking. Everything one could possibly love about fantasy is in Candlewax (except maybe dragons. But you won't miss them, promise!)
The novel has a nicely plotted story arc and, even with the cliffhanger set up for the next books in the series, Candlewax has that now-rare satisfying feeling of conclusion when it ends. I won't lie: I really wish it had a more inspiring cover, some of the made up words and names made me giggle - even when they were supposed to be menacing - and the Trodliks never became more than this in my head, but none of that really detracted from my enjoyment of the novel in any way. Hardcore fans of fantasy may find Candlewax to be simple (but not, I think, derivative). There is danger, sadness, loss, fear - but things never get too dark. Therefore, I think it is an excellent introduction to the genre for younger readers while still being a good read for older teens. Sims didn't do anything earth shattering here, but it is a good, strong, fun, readable fantasy that I would easily recommend it to any young reader who shows the slightest interest in the genre.
Thanks to Terabyte Press and NetGalley for the ARC.
Review also at Goodreads