Liz de Jager – Banished

lizdejager-banishedKit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s living with her unorthodox cousins and sharing their strange lives. Especially since home-schooling includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in.

For Kit, events move from bad to apocalyptic, as she finds fae battling fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then she pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

Full disclosure: The author Liz de Jager is a very dear friend. This doesn’t mean I haven’t read this novel critically, because I have. In fact I think I might have read it even more critically than I would usually read a debut, as I kept weighing whether I liked things because I liked them or whether I liked them because of who the author was. But to avoid any accusations of bias, I did want to mention it upfront. That being said, let’s get on with the review. 

Banished is the first book in the Blackhart Legacy trilogy. The premise of the book could not have been more tailored to my likes than it was. A family of monster hunters trying to keep the peace and humanity safe from the more dangerous fae, set in a world that is our world but where fairy tales are not just tales, but part of the Otherwhere, a supernatural world that is linked to ours. Book, you had me at hello. Combine this premise with an awesome set of characters and there was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy Banished.

De Jager creates a world quite close our own, but with significant differences. The fae world, or Otherwhere, is real. We share our world with supernatural creatures and not all of them are cute and cuddly. Much of the lore incorporated is traditional; there are Sidhe of the Seelie and Unseelie courts, there are phookahs, werewolves, banshees, brownies, dragons and other familiar supernatural creatures. Inhabitants of the Otherwhere are allergic to iron and metal and time between our world, the Frontier, and the Otherwhere tends to run differently. However, de Jager also incorporates fun, original elements as well. Such as the reason and manner for the divide between the Frontier and the Otherwhere and the fact that Fae are allergic to coffee, which has a highly stimulatory effect on certain parts of them. These bits of lore are dropped into the narrative in conversation or in a more formal way at the start of several of the chapters, through the use of lemma’s explaining some element of the Fae world. These usually gave a small clue as what to expect and it allowed for exposition without info-dumping in an intrusive way.

This interesting world is inhabited by a great cast of characters. First and foremost, there is our protagonist, Kit. She was raised away from her Blackhart family and, at the start of the book, has only found out about them eighteen months ago. She’s a wonderful character with a very clear voice. She’s strong, wilfully, a little (a lot) impulsive and she can snark with the best of them. She’s also at times a little out of her depth, not having been raised steeped in the family lore and having a rare magical gift that no-one seems to be able to teach her to use. One of her impulsive actions is saving Thorn from a bunch of redcaps, which lands her in a completely different pot of trouble and as her family members are all away, she left to solve it on her own. Thorn, for his part, is a lovely male lead. Mysterious, princely and charming, he’s actually a good guy, who respects Kit’s abilities and doesn’t crimp her style. They are joined by Aiden, youngest of the Garrett clan, a family of werewolves living in London. He’s funny, irreverent and a bit of a lad and I absolutely adored him. The three of them go in search for their families, who seem to have disappeared up North.

Speaking of family, I loved Kit’s family. Her cousins, twins Megan and Marc, and their younger brother Kyle are wonderful and madcap. I especially liked geeky, lore-loving Kyle. He actually reminded me a lot of Criminal Minds’ Spencer Reid, who’ve I’ve had a TV crush on for years now. Kit’s Uncle Jamie is lovely and seems to be a father figure, even if he’s gone for most of the book. Then there are another Aunt and Uncle, who live in the States, and Aunt Letitia, the family archivist, none of whom we get to meet in person, but who we’ll hopefully meet in more detail in the next book, as I’d love to spend more time with the extended Blackhart family.

I’ve said Kit has a really distinct and strong voice, but so does De Jager. For me reading this book was extra fun, not to mention a little strange, as there were turns of phrase or words that made me chuckle, because she uses them in real life as well. De Jager’s writing is lovely and smooth, and she has a wonderful ear for dialogue. The banter between Kit, Thorn, and Aiden is delicious and Banished had me laughing out loud in places. But it’s not just the funny dialogue she gets right, it’s also the more formal speech we get in the fae realm. Not to mention her action scenes. She’s clearly done her research into sword and knife-fighting and hand-to-hand combat and it shines through in all of the fights, of which there are quite a number.

I did have some niggles, of course. I kept wondering why Istvan, who is revealed to be one of the bad guys early on in the book, would do what he did and wondering when De Jager was going to explain things. Which she does, eventually, but as Istvan is revealed as a traitor in Chapter Six, it nagged at me almost the entire book. Additionally, I missed a fat hook leading into the next book. Obviously, it’s clear there will be a next book, as this is book one in a trilogy, but it isn’t really clear where the next book will be headed. Banished is a really self-contained story which on the one hand is good, because cliff-hangers kill me, I have no patience, but on the other it makes me wonder well now what? Where can Kit go after pitting herself against the Elder Gods? Then again Buffy managed to save the world each season as well, so hey… And if one of my complaints is actually just I want MOAR! in a rather circuitous way, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right?

Banished gave me ALL. THE. FEELS. and while not perfect, it’s a wonderful story and a great debut. In Kit, De Jager has created an amazing character, whose potential has only been partially mined in Banished and who can only become stronger in the next Blackhart Legacy book, tentatively titled Vowed. I love Kit and the world De Jager has created and I can’t wait to read more. Vowed is expected to be published in November and I wish it was sooner!

This book was provided for review by the publisher.