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The Search by Bridget McGowan

four stars

When a King is informed that his son is far weaker than he ought to be, he decides to send him on a quest that will forever shape the rest of his life. This epic fantasy opens when King Dulglan II receives multiple reports from masters across the kingdom that his eldest son, Balidhe, is almost certain to be a disappointment. It is said that even his twin sister could beat him at nearly every kind of competition you could think of! Deciding it would be remiss to do nothing, the king sends Balidhe to each master, one after the other, so that he can learn how to use an assortment of weapons, assisting the other realms in whatever capacity necessary. If Balidhe fails at any point along his quest, he will be stripped of his title, therefore never given the chance to succeed his father, the king. Resentful of the treatment he’s received, Balidhe is angered that he has to go through such a challenge, but in time he comes to accept that there is much to learn from each master, discovering his inner potential along the way. Just as things are starting to look up, he nearly loses everything, only to survive by the skin of his teeth, and realize that he must undertake a difficult search, something no other royal has ever done. What will he find when he reaches his destination?

By creating complicated, multi-layered characters who evolve over the course of her novel, McGowan succeeds at delivering fully-formed personalities on the page. Readers are sure to be both rooting for, and at times, against, the decisions Balidhe makes along his search. Important lessons are littered throughout the narrative, as the main character comes to find his own inner strength, regardless of the doubts others may have of him. The danger that is present at nearly every turn during his journey is sure to keep readers on their toes, as this fantastical world the author has so expertly constructed comes alive. The pacing of the story moves quickly, but still gives readers enough time to connect with the conflicted protagonist. Overall, this is a highly enjoyable read.