Book Review – The Splintered Crown by Larry N. Martin

A Tankard and Heroes Novel
Publisher: Sol Publishing
Pages: 167
Characters: Kieron, Mitchell, Kane, Declan, Malyn, Tom
POV: 3rd
Genre: High Fantasy, Series

A medieval fantasy with a party of adventurers all ready to make a name for themselves and earn some gold.

Tankards and Heroes is set in the city of Kortufan, where spies, assassins, mercenaries, arms dealers, rebels, smugglers, and informants do dirty deals dirt cheap.

The Poxy Dragon is a rough bar outside the worst part of the medieval Silk Road. It takes serious courage just to walk into the place, not only from its reputation but because of the rough clientele, questionable food, awful beer, and abysmal hygiene. Lots of taverns in Kortufan are home to ruffians and illegal dealings, but the Poxy Dragon is the proving ground for heroes – with a cemetery out back for the ones who don’t make the cut.

Lady Leota, the resident demigoddess at the Poxy Dragon, sends would-be heroes to different realms on quests. Once committed, there is no turning back, and if they want their reward, every party member must return through the portal – dead or alive.

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I enjoyed the set up for this story, and its world. It’s a neat idea having a tavern and heroes going on quests as a continuing thread throughout this new series. Although this story is about one particular quest and its heroes, the story also takes breaks from the main action to show life within the tavern, and the character who populate it. The Poxy Dragon is a wonderful name for a tavern, and having the quest start and end there bookends the action very nicely.

The characterisation is fabulous. I was quickly drawn into the story which is told from the perspective of the very different characters. I liked that each character does take a turn in POV, as it gave insight and backstory for them and in the way they perceived the others. I enjoyed reading Tom’s perception of the questing heroes too. I loved the family vibe between Kieron, Mitchell, and their friends, and the description of them as a mismatched pack, and family by choice. The banter and conversations felt like family. I’ve always been a fan of flawed heroes, so this story and these characters appealed to me on several levels.

The world felt very real and was wonderfully detailed with a rich history, and easy to visualise. I liked that having abilities came with a price, like Maylyn tiring after healing someone, and others suffering from headaches. I also liked that they were all from different backgrounds, genders and sexualities with a shifter, half-elf, mage, healer, medium, and a human in the mix. Often in fantasy stories the human is at a disadvantage because of having no magic, so I loved that this flipped that so that in some of the scenarios they came up against, Kieron had the advantage because he was human. I also liked the point the story makes that those born into wealth and power doesn’t always have the freedom to be who they want to be.

I thought the quest itself was very clever with some of the things they encountered on the way, how they had to work out getting around and through the traps, and that a part of the quest is designed for each of them and their fears and skillset. I particularly liked the bridge, and Lady Brewer’s Tavern.

I’d recommend this story to readers who enjoy quest stories with flawed heroes, fabulous world building, and a story with plenty of twists and turn. 5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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