Flaming blue swords. Sleeping inside trees. A dense and vibrant world. The Assembly of Thirteen: The First Two Companions is a wonderfully entertaining, dangerously fun new fantasy novel from debut author Omayra Velez.
“On a hot California night,” June is sleeping peacefully. Everything seems fine, her dog lying calmly beside her. But you might have guessed, that doesn’t last for too long.
Strange sounds stir her awake. Her dog looks just as confused as she is.
Her refrigerator? It’s glowing orange. She finds a strange box, also radiating vibrant color. Before she knows it, she wakes up in a tree a year later. And she’s not in California anymore.
Author Omayra Velez shines in more ways than one, but the brightest is in the density of the world she’s created.
Multiple countries, multiple religions and multiple forms of unique and powerful magic. While this new world and magic system may be a bit daunting at times, Velez keeps things light by modernizing the dialogue and introducing us to fun and quirky new characters. It is truly refreshing to explore a strange world with June, who is not afraid to tell her some slightly-corny, slightly-hilarious jokes along the way.
This novel does struggle a bit with staying in its primary narrative though. There are so many characters and storylines that it is often easy to get bogged down with questions of why exactly we need to know this person, this scene, and this bit of backstory. The Assembly of Thirteen provides short snippets of character introductions at the beginning of many chapters, which create for fun and unique stories, but sometimes, those characters disappear from the primary narrative earlier than we would have liked. Perhaps they will resurface as a bit more meaningful in book two.
Still, The Assembly of Thirteen has so many good things going for it. For example, it uses color and fantastical imagery in an exciting new way that we haven’t really read before. When readers enter the world of the “Forest of the Living Death,” the color jumps off the page: blues, reds, and greens appear on the tallest plants that June has ever seen.
Velez proves to be a strong commander of language and her land, capable of offering a new image whenever she wants. If you’re a reader looking for an elaborate and well-defined new world and magic system, The Assembly of Thirteen could be an excellent way to spend your next few days.
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