The Blackstone Ritual by Swearingen Durham
Arden Ford’s priorities in life are simple—love his grandmother, take care of their inn and horses, and play harmless pranks on unsuspecting townspeople. He is generally happy with his lot, if a little bored. All of that changes the day he meets a mysterious levitating girl. She lures him into a forbidden forest called the Bardenwood and pleas with him to help her save her dying forest by freeing the lord of magic that keeps the forests green and the crops growing. Ard eventually agrees and sets out on a treacherous journey to the capital of Mossa Castille to find Blackstone, the rare gem needed to perform the ritual that will free the Child King. Along the way, Ard learns that things are not always what they seem and what he thought he knew could turn out to be very, very wrong, indeed.
There are some stories you step into and they almost immediately feel comfortable and familiar—Ah yes, that’s where I left my sword—and the reason you read them is precisely because they scratch that itch in ways that other stories don’t. The Blackstone Ritual, the first novel in the Tales of the Bardenwood series, is one such book. Author Swearingen Durham delivers what has come to be expected by readers of YA fantasy novels—magnificent mythical creatures, a smart but naïve protagonist, and a battle of good and evil that is much greater in scope than anything the hero ever imagined. Durham does so in a way that is recognizable while still hooking the reader with a young hero’s charm and a perilous quest into lands unknown. The Blackstone Ritual is a delightful read on its own and provides a solid foundation for the epic adventures sure to come.