Fantasy is brought to a younger reader in Steven M. Booth’s Dark Talisman. Though marketed at a young adult book, Booth brings a strong character in a fast paced book which would be good for many a tween. Booth writes a beautiful world with dark elves and dwarves, assassins and mages.
Meet the Dark Elf, Altira. She set out to rob a sultan, and ended up stealing the deadliest gem in the world. This mistake could cost Altira her life or save her race, and possibly the world as she knows it. As Altira struggles to triumph over the vast forces arrayed against her, she acquires (mostly against her will) a rich cast of unexpected allies perceptive dwarves, giant Phoenix birds with mysterious powers, and ephemeral creatures made from nothing but air. Together they must find a way to defeat the army of assassins set against her, overcome the wrath of three nations, and forge allegiances with despised enemies, to reveal the truth to a people kept in darkness for millennia.
Though I am not the intended audience for Dark Talisman, I thought this novel was pretty good, if light and lacking some depth. The highlight is Booth’s willingness to have a character who was frankly unlikeable. She was ridiculously prejudiced and a bit of a know it all, but still Booth made me care about how her story unfolded.
Though I didn’t really mind the lack of depth due to the ease of reading, I was a little frustrated at how many neat magic concepts were glazed over. Many of these details took base from popular established fantasy worlds and included a form of shadow walking and sensing trees through music. Although I knew what Booth was hinting it, I wondered if the target audience would have the knowledge of fantasy to fill in where Booth did not.
Overall, Dark Talisman was predictable but decent. Like many a children’s book, there was a subtle message to the story that I found to be a little too subtle. I wonder how many young readers would realize that the main character Altira did not succeed until she pushed aside her preconceived notions about her allies and enemies alike. I don’t believe Dark Talisman transcends the young adult/adult novel divide, but for young readers, I can definitely recommend this introduction to the darker world of assassins.