Thursday, December 3, 2015

ARC Review: The Watchmen of Port Fayt - Conrad Mason

The Watchmen of Port Fayt by Conrad Mason
Series: Tales of Fayt #1
Genre: Middle Grade, fantasy
Published on August 25, 2015
Published by David Fickling Books
Pages: 400
Read From: 11.22.15 - 11.28.15

Captain Newton and his men have always protected Port Fayt - a place where humans live in peace alongside trolls, elves, and fairies. But now Fayt is under threat from a much more powerful enemy - the Leave of Light, a group out to destroy all non-humans. 

Half-goblin boy Joseph Grubb has only ever heard stories of Captain Newton and the Demon's Watch. Fed up of working at his uncle's tavern, Grubb dreams of escape - until a whirlwind encounter with a smuggler plunges him into Fayt's criminal underworld. There he meets the watchmen and learns of their mission to save the port. Can Grubb and his new allies uncover the dark plot in time, or will they end up as fish food in Harry's Shark Pit?


Dear Watchmen of Port Fayt,

Being as I am currently addicted to Middle Grade fantasy novels, there was no way I was going to pass you up. Especially since you had a 1700's-esque feel and promised a lot of adventure. Plus, how cool does the Demon's Watch sound?! So it was with high expectations I began you. . . .

Joseph Grubb lives in a place called Port Fayt, where non-human creatures such as trolls and fairies have left the Old World to live in peace with each other and humans. Even so, people aren't too fond of mongrels like Grubb - half human, half non-human (in Grubb's case, half goblin). He's been working at his uncle's tavern ever since his parents died, but Grubb longs for something more; something better. So when a smuggler stumbles into the Legless Mermaid one night and brings with him a mysterious item that a witch, pirates, the Demon's Watch, and a strange man with golden eyes are all after, Grubb gets his wish. Soon he's swept away into a marvelous adventure that he might not survive.

My first thought? This is "Treasure Island" with fairies! And indeed, your opening scene with the tavern, a pirate/smuggler captain being chased by other pirates, and a mysterious item is very reminiscent of R. L. Stevenson's best-loved work. It sets up the feel for the rest of the book, for while the plot definitely departs from a Treasure Island-esque setup, it still has a swashbuckling, 1700's-style adventure - complete with pirates, backstabbing, underhand deals, and tavern fights. But amid all of it are fairies, trolls, goblins, elves, dwarves, merfolk, witches, and everything else you find in a typical fantasy novel. It makes for a refreshingly new feel.

It's hard to not instantly love Grubb - our "Jim Hawkins" for the novel (I doubt R. L. Stevenson ever imagined Hawkins as being half-goblin!). He's just a kid in bad circumstances due to his heritage. He's surrounded by customers constantly talking about adventure, but he can't escape his abusive uncle. Still, Grubb does his best at the tavern. And when adventure comes knocking, Grubb is literally swept along due to no real fault of his own (though, really, maybe he shouldn't have stolen the item? But I have a hard time blaming that on him, as his intentions were good and then instinct took over, and he was right in both accounts).

I loved Tabitha, too, a blue-haired, knife-throwing member of the Demon's Watch with a tragic past and something to prove. She's a tough girl, but sometimes way too reckless and I did get annoyed at her from time to time because of that. I began to understand why Newton, the leader of the Demon's Watch and sort of like a father figure to not only Tabitha, but all of the young members of his team, didn't entirely trust her to handle more important duties.

The side characters - Jeb the Snitch; Slik a double-crossing, bad-tempered fairy; Governor Wyrmwood; Captain Derringer of the Dockside Militia; the mysterious ginger-haired stranger with the golden eyes (my favorite side character) - were all vividly imagined and fully present when on the page. The pirates and smugglers were cliche, but I didn't mind too much.

As for your plot, Watchmen of Port Fayt, it was a rollicking good adventure that never slowed down, had hair-raising turn after hair-raising turn, some fairly surprising twists, and was all in all a lot of fun. I was intrigued by your world and want to know more about the founding of Port Fayt and the world the people came from. You ended with a strong lead into the next book, with the impending threat of the League of the Light coming to eradicate all of the non-humans from Port Fayt.

Feeling excited for the next installment,
~ Mara A. ~

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