There is a lot that goes into the making of a good fantasy novel. There is worldbuilding, the dramatic and often impactful nature of the plot, the characters who are affected by this plot, plus so much more. Oftentimes, you see fantasy novels that focus on one thing above others: worldbuilding or characters or plot. Rarely do you see all of these. JMD Reid’s Diamond Stained, the first book in his Secret of the Jewels series, manages to capture all of these elements and blend them together into something that is unique, epic, entertaining, and a pleasure to read.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book starts off small. The main character, Ōbhin, finds himself in a situation he’d rather not be in. He performs his duty—which in the grand scheme of things is a relatively minor thing—and events spiral outwards from there. Things grow organically, one event leading into another which then presents more and eventually, the whole realm (so far) is involved and Ōbhin finds himself at the centre. The way that this plot builds is expertly done, not something you see often when the standard is to throw the characters—and the world—into the midst of a crisis (also a perfectly good way to do a story, just entirely different). I found myself really enjoying the way things grew and watching how the characters pushed the plot along, as opposed to the plot pushing them.
2. Thoughts on the main character
Ōbhin is a great main character to have. He has some of the standard fantasy hero qualities—follows a strict set of principles, dangerous but with a good heart, a tragic back-story—but there is so much more that goes into his character. He is perhaps quieter than most heroes, with more time to think and reflect on his action. His blushing sense of propriety is another thing which helped to flesh him out and make him real. As far as characters go, he is definitely one of the most developed that I’ve seen in a while, which was truly great to read. I will say that his tragic backstory does make him a little less three dimensional and more like a character from a book than a person you would interact with, but as this doesn’t occupy his every thought, it works well.
3. Favourite part
I think I probably enjoyed all the character interactions the most. They helped to move the plot along and made the characters more realistic, which was great to read (especially in a genre where you usually see the dialogue doing one or the other, depending on the focus of the book). Smiles was hugely entertaining, poor man. Fingers, too, but Smiles wins that honour.
The main critique I have for this is to do with Avena, our secondary protagonist and a character as entertaining and interesting as our main protagonist. The section later on in the novel where she reflects on her actions and her emotional well-being feels a little forced. The conclusion that she comes to makes sense, but the way that she thinks about it reads a little too stiffly. However, she is a great character in all other regards, so I would say that this critique is minor.
Overall, Diamond Stained was a truly great book to read. I was drawn through the novel as though I were with the characters. The worldbuilding was expertly done—not too much information, but not too little, either. I could picture things perfectly. The characters were well developed and fun to read. And by the time the plot really hit exploding point, I was so invested in the outcome that I almost freaked out at the end. Therefore, I would say that this book is VERY GOOD.