Book Review: The Reign of the Departed (The High and Faraway Book 1) by Greg Keyes

Errol attempts to commit suicide but instead wakes in the body of a wooden automaton, created by his classmate, Aster. Her father is under a curse, and she needs his help, plus the help of some others, to travel into the magical realms of the Kingdoms and find the water of health. If they find it---and survive---they'll be able to cure both Aster's father and Errol's human body.

Book Review: The Reign of the Departed (The High and Faraway Book 1) by Greg Keyes | reading, books, book reviews, epic fantasy, paranormal/urban fantasy
Title: The Reign of the Departed
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 348
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*

This book was strange, but I liked its strangeness, and these flawed characters managed to capture my heart as they traveled through magical realms, formed bonds with one another, and struggled with their own inner turmoil and growth while on their quest to find the water of health.

This was a plot-driven book, and while that’s normally not my thing, I enjoyed getting to see all the weird stuff in the Kingdoms (the other realms) and going along for the ride. There was some randomness, things that happened because of fate or that didn’t get explained, but I was able to roll with it. It fit with the strangeness of the book overall, and magic and fate and those sorts of things were just a part of the setting where the story took place.

But, despite the book’s plot-driven nature, it was the characters that really reeled me in, especially Errol and Aster, who seemed to be the two main ones.

I felt for Errol immediately. Reading about his attempted suicide, the fear he felt when it didn’t go as planned, the grief he felt when he found out his body was lying in a hospital—I nearly shed a tear despite not even knowing his reason for trying to commit suicide. As I learned more about him, I could see he wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t a bad guy either. He was dealing with some tough stuff, he cared about people, he just wanted to feel like he wasn’t so useless to everyone, and he realized some of his faults over the course of the book.

Aster was markedly less likeable to start off with—callous and selfish—but I could understand why she was that way, and I sympathized with her too. She was basically on her own with no one to turn to, and she just wanted to save her father from the curse he was under and not feel like such an outsider. As the book went on, well, she turned out to not be so selfish after all, and I felt for her.

One of my only complaints is that there were a few too many POVs for my taste, and the book sometimes jumped between them in short bursts. But the POVs were always clearly separated, the short bursts kept the book feeling like it was moving quickly, and clearly I found the main characters believable, likeable, and interesting regardless. The characters even cracked me up sometimes.

Altogether, the characters had an interesting dynamic. Friendships. Mutual crushes. Unrequited crushes. Animosity. All these things developing, getting tangled up, and changing throughout the book. It was kind of like teenage drama, high fantasy style. Some of the feelings were a bit sudden or not as believable as they could’ve been, but I suppose it might be realistic for some teens to feel things strongly and quickly, and it was all subdued rather than over-the-top and added another layer to the story, so I liked it. And the friendships that formed were really touching and sweet.

Overall, this was an enjoyable story with a swift plot, an interesting magical world, touching friendships, and believable characters that I look forward to reading more about in the next book!


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  1. Ash

    This one sounds interesting. I have a hard time with epic fantasies. But this one really looks good. Especially with good characters. And I love that cover!
    Great review

  2. Greg

    “teenage drama, high fantasy style” doesn’t sound half bad! Glad it was good! I do like quests and a little strangeness, from time to time. And I’ve heard of Greg Keyes, I think I almost picked up his Briar King series at one time? I know I looked at it…

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, the small bit of drama added some interesting-ness to the story! And I did enjoy the strangeness. This was the first of his books I’ve read, but I do want to continue the series when the next book comes out.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol they encounter all sorts of weird things on their quest too. But it was definitely interesting! This one I found mostly because I absolutely love the cover, haha.

  3. Danya @ Fine Print

    Normally I’m not that big on plot-driven books either. I usually like being able to take my time and savour good storytelling instead of feeling an intense urge to keep reading because of twists, you know? Too many POVs is a no-no for me, which is too bad because I like the sound of Aster’s character development!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t mind the twisty urge to keep reading thing, but I like to also really be able to sink into the characters, which is why the POV thing bothers me. But I still managed to get attached to these characters, so I enjoyed it anyway!

  4. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    This sounds quite good. I love flawed characters and I also like that there are some great friendships. Those are the kinds of things that can really pull me into an epic fantasy, and fantastic world building of course 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      I love flawed characters and great friendships too! And yep, that’s exactly why this one pulled me in despite epic fantasy usually not being my fave!

  5. Olivia Roach

    Although I am a character driven reader I’ve come to see that I still do like plot driven books – just in a different way, and especially when I like the characters too. That sounds like it was quite the case for you here too. I also really like the sound of the wooden automaton for some reason 😀 Ah, too many POVs can make it so you lose a little interest but this one sounds good around that!

  6. Sam@WLABB

    I have to admit, I don’t read too many books, which I would classify as plot driven, but the blurb is oddly intriguing. I am also a fan of friendships and flawed characters, and I don’t think I have ever complained about having too many POVs, because I am super nosey and have to be in everyone’s head. Glad you enjoyed this book.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t either, but I guess I can still enjoy them if the other stuff is good, like the characters and friendships! I love your reason for not minding lots of POVs, haha XD Thanks!

  7. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I’m very much a person drawn in by characters as opposed to plot so it’s great that you seemed to connect with them even though this seemed to be a plot driven book. It’s great that characters with flaws were given the chance to grow and develop, it’s so much more satisfying to read about. This sounds like it was a good book.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Me too! So I was really happy the characters did end up reeling me in like that. And it is satisfying to read about characters who grow throughout the book 🙂

  8. sjhigbee

    This one sounds really interesting – thank you for an insightful review, Kristen. Like you, I prefer more character-led stories, but it sounds as though this one needed a wider sweep.