Today, I am so thrilled to introduce you to debut author, Verity Buchanan. She is one of our newest–and I believe, youngest–authors at Ambassador International. Just in case you didn’t know, I am the senior editor at Ambassador, and I have the privilege of meeting a variety of authors. While I didn’t have the pleasure of being Verity’s editor, I was thrilled when she asked me if I would review her new novel, the first in her Ceristen Series.
Before I dive into my review, I asked Verity to join me today in answering some questions, so you can get to know the woman behind the story!
1. How old were you when you started writing?
I have conflicting memories here. I believe I started writing my own stories when I was six, but I can no longer pull a distinct visual of doing so at that age. The first clear recollection I have of writing was in a tiny composition notebook when I was seven or eight years old.
2. Where does your inspiration come from?
Life, mostly. You live some, you write some. You feel emotions, you capture them. You see the dazzling sunlight on a bank of trees, you want to hold it longer than it lasts, and so you scribble a few careful impressions down on the page—imperfect, but somehow retaining the vision of the thing. I think every part of life, whether I’m consciously aware of it or not, is the bank of inspiration from which I draw.
And when not my life, specifically, then books. My writing style has been shaped strongly by authors such as Rosemary Sutcliff, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Meghan Whalen Turner (whose exquisite Queen’s Thief series I’ve just partially reread). Books allow a more widespread (and, tangibly speaking, much safer) experience of life than the one we typically get, which is fun and educational—and great for inspiration.
3. Are your characters based on real people?
Yes and no. I can think of 1-2 instances where I’ve deliberately placed a friend “into” the story, and then typically it’s a single aspect of their personality that struck me, which I wanted to replicate with a side character. Most of the time, if a resemblance exists, it’s unconscious or surface-level. I think of my characters as my children, in a sense, and I like them to be their own person, not a mere derivative.
4. Can you give us any hints about your next book?
I’m currently applying beta reader feedback to The Claw, which is Book 3 in the Ceristen Series — book 2 (The Village) released October 2020 with Ambassador International. Fred Thorne is an important character in it, but not among the main protagonists. It may or may not involve three murders. One of my favorite people in it is a man called Sam, who appears and disappears mysteriously, sniffs his drink for poison, talks like a politician, and has all the answers but gives none of them.
5. If you could encourage young writers, what would you say?
Keep writing! Someone out there needs your words in the way that only you can tell them. Read good literature that has stood the test of time, but don’t be afraid to dip into new waters—your favorite classics were once obscure and brand new, too. And remember that for every piece of “how to write” advice you get, there’s another one that contradicts it. No writing rule is meant to work all the time, for every story, and for every person. Knowing how to write means knowing that sometimes you really do have to break the rules.
6. What are five things we should know about you?
–I’m a chronically anxious extrovert.
–I have a huge fascination with all things linguistic.
–I keep paper dolls of my characters that I made when I was 13.
–I listen to Andrew Peterson 25/8.
–I improvise classical piano in order to relax.
All that makes me sound 10x cooler than I am, I promise!
Now that you’ve learned a little about who Verity is, here is my honest review of The Journey:
The story begins with three of the Thorne siblings–Fred, Sandy, and Marjorie–who, within the first few pages, find themselves abandoned by their drunkard father, homeless from a fire that destroys their house, and without an adult to take care of them when their guardian aunt dies. Abandoned by their other siblings and mother years before, the last three Thornes set off on a quest to find a new home in a land that does not know their family name.
As the only brother left, Fred Thorne bears the burden of protecting his sisters. He is fearless but refuses to rely on anyone else. Only twenty years old himself, Fred is still struggling to become a man. As he leads his small family over mountains, valleys, deserts, and territories covered with bandits, Fred finds himself staggering under the weight of guilt from the past of losing his younger sister, grief from the loss of those he once loved, and fear of not being able to protect his sisters. But Fred’s quiet strength and fortitude are just what the Thorne siblings need to make their dreams a reality.
Marjorie is the typical older sister. She has a calmness and sweetness about her that sooths Fred but irritates her sister, Sandy. No matter what happens, Marjorie is the voice of reason, the peacemaker, the optimist. The peace she has is the kind that can only be found in someone who knows God. She never complains, although the traveling is often more than her comfort can handle. I would say that she is the light in the darkness for the Thornes.
And then there’s Sandy–the typical middle child. Once close to Fred, she can’t understand the changes that are occurring within him. As he draws closer to Marjorie for calm, Fred doesn’t realize that Sandy is fighting her own demons of jealousy. And when Fred decides to take on an unexpected traveler, Sandy begins to let the jealousy almost swallow her whole. Will she be able to finally set her resentment aside and find the peace she doesn’t even know she needs?
As the three siblings set off to find a place to call home, will they be able to find the answers they have been looking for? Why did their mother leave them? Where are all their other brothers and sisters? Who are the mystical creatures they keep hearing about? Why are the lands divided? With any journey, one answer just leads to more questions. But together, the Thornes can fight any obstacle that comes their way, and perhaps they will realize that they are truly better together than apart.
Verity’s first book is a wonder. She writes as though she grew up in the time of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. Her characters remind me much of theirs–strange creatures, distant lands, an arduous journey. Her writing style is beautiful. She carries you along through the story, creating adventures around every curve and bringing unexpected surprises with them.
The reader can easily relate to Fred’s frustrations, Marjorie’s contentment, and Sandy’s jealousy. And though more characters are added in along the way, I didn’t feel overwhelmed with trying to remember who they were. Oftentimes, I think authors who write this sort of genre lose their reader by trying to create names that are so far-fetched and made-up that it’s hard to remember who is who.
The one character I think needed a little work is Marjorie. The story is alternatingly told through Fred’s view and Sandy’s view. But I would have liked to see Marjorie developed more as well. She is also a key character, and I felt that the story would have been rounded out better if we could have seen her side of things. I’m not completely sure why the author chose that course, but it was the one area that I felt could have been developed more. Perhaps we will hear more from Marjorie in the second book, The Village. I hope so–I really would like to hear more from her.
Overall, I am very pleased with this book. I have been looking for something appropriate for my twelve-year-old daughter to read, and I am excited to find out what she thinks of the book as well! I think that Verity has an amazing writing style, and I believe that her books are only going to get better as she continues to hone her writing.
I want to thank Verity for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, and I hope you will give it a chance as well!
You can find out more about Verity and join her email list to be updated on the releases for her upcoming novels by visiting https://www.verityabuchanan.com/.