The Many Adventures of Peter and Fi: Volume I by Kelvyn Fernandes
Posted Winter 2019
The discussion of how this book came to find itself on my radar is a testament to how human beings are vain creatures and the truth of the old adage, 'flattery will get you everywhere.' Kelvyn reached out, told me that he enjoyed my reviews of The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, and offered me a review copy of his debut novel, The Many Adventures of Peter and Fi. My ego sufficiently stroked by Kelvyn's kind words, I accepted. I checked out the link he sent, which included the book in .epub and .mobi format, as well as the cover art.
Another adage comes to mind: don't judge a book by its cover. If I am being perfectly honest, I would probably not have given it a second glance if I saw it on the shelf. The cover has a bit of an anime style and it looks a little bit 'young.' I am not judging this as bad - in fact, I think that the artwork is quite beautiful. That said, given my taste, I just think that I probably would not have considered it. But, given what I found within, I was led to rethink my own prejudices. For that alone, I thank you, Kelvyn. If you react the same way - perish the thought!
The review - 5/5
I have to take a moment to say a couple of things about 5/5 reviews. Perfection does not exist in nature, but 5/5 reviews do. They have a place, and they are not to be hoarded like a dragon's treasure. I do not always give them (see my recent 3/5 review for Ship of Fools for proof). I feel books deserve these kind of ratings when they are effective - that is to say, they have an effect. The aforementioned 'effect' is nebulous and ephemeral and difficult to pin down, but in this case, I can boil it down to one word: heart. The Many Adventures of Peter and Fi has heart in spades. I will not sugarcoat it - the text has a few warts, mostly related to punctuation and grammar. But it is easy to see past such nitpicky issues and feel the flow of heart in Kelvyn's words.
Kelvyn described this as a 'fantasy adventure book' when he first introduced it to me, and I think that that descriptor fits like a glove. It is a rollicking adventure, told in a series of connected short stories. It is not overly long, and it kept my interest up throughout. It stars a pair of young people in a magic-infused fantasy world - Peter is 20 and Fi is 14. Peter is a mage, and his magical power will surprise and delight you, both because it seems stupid and useless, and throughout the book he goes about proving that it's not. Fi is somewhat of an enigmatic character, and we learn more about her as the book goes on, culminating with the powerfully emotional climax that left me desiring more. The relationship between Peter and Fi is heartwarming and believable - they love and trust each other, even though they sometimes have a hard time showing it.
There are many other intriguing characters - a goblin horde, a devious sea captain, a vicious princess that would put Joffrey to shame (and her strange pair of protectors), an apprentice mage (who I am eager to see again in Volume II), a master wizard, Fi's family - the world is so vibrant with life.
Speaking of life, the monsters and animals play a large role in the story and are mostly magical in nature (some stuff hinted at the fact that there is a story behind the unique magic system that is not yet explained). I loved all of the cool little touches - mud deer making stable muddy ground with their feet, for example. The ent-like treekeepers, the elusive golden bird one of the characters tries to find, the monstrous bullfrog-like bullrush - they all serve to make the world come alive.
The setting is absolutely incredible. Kelvyn has a gift for description, and one of my favourite parts of this book was how it made me imagine myself in this wonderful world he created. I was particularly fond of the wetlands and the forest near the end of the book - the stories of canoeing along a peaceful river that reminded me of my youth at my grandparent's cottage near Ottawa. Iridescent and full of colour, it was exactly what I expected from the cover art. Contrary to what I expected from the cover art, this is balanced by some seriously dark political and social intrigue. And violence. There are a few rather gruesome parts, and people die. Quite a bit.
The plot is told through hints and little by little - reading the story is like peeling an onion. More and more clues about the characters' pasts is built up throughout and there is incomplete resolution. It makes you want to read more - and I have it on good authority that more is coming soon!
Overall, this book is absolutely fantastic and well worth your time. Do yourself a favour and pick it up.