On Lavender Tides (Jekua #1) by Travis M. Riddle
Publication Date: March 25th, 2022
Paperback/Ebook. 398 pages.
About On Lavender Tides:
"Ever since he was a kid, all Balt Vana wanted was to be a world-renowned Jekua Summoner like his grandmother, battling other Summoners in front of audiences of thousands. But from where he stands now, living up to the Vana name feels impossible.
When his best friend Alani, an initiate at the local Church, is sent on a pilgrimage to find her path in life and the god she will follow, Balt sees the perfect opportunity to launch his career by escorting her across the archipelago and its purple seas. The islands are filled with monsters to imprint and Summoners to battle, with every victory bringing him one step closer to his dream.
It will take more than just his family name to reach the same heights as his grandmother, but Balt won't stop until he does."
This was one of most enjoyable books I’ve read in a while, and I truly mean it when I say that absolutely everything about this book was so much fun. The creativity in this book is off the charts and combines everything I love, from adventures through a spectacular world to quirky and incredible animal-like creatures to charismatic characters–it has it all! This is the perfect escape from all the stresses in your life.
On Lavender Tides is the first book in a brand new progression fantasy series inspired by the author’s love of Pokemon. In this story, we follow Balt on his journey to become a Jekua Summoner and make a name for himself in the same way that his grandmother did before him. We also follow Alani, Balt’s best friend and an initiate of the local church, as she is sent on a pilgrimage by the church to discover what her next path in life will be. Together, the two embark on what is shaping up to be an adventurous and exploratory journey to adulthood and discovering who they are and what their purpose in the world is.
Balt and Alani were both incredible characters to follow and have personalities that are the perfect foil to one another. Balt is a pretty casual guy overall and doesn’t tend to take things in life too seriously–except for summoning, of course. Balt may not be the most dedicated student in school, but he is an extremely dedicated budding Jekua Summoner who has spent countless hours poring over his grandma’s book of Jekuas and making sure he knows as much as he possibly can about the creatures inside. He’s a rather impulsive character and tends to let his emotions drive his actions and decisions–something that doesn’t always work out so well for him–and I can definitely see where he has already made a lot of growth in this book and where I’m sure he will continue to grow in future books.
As mentioned, Alani is an almost perfect foil to Balt and seems to be slightly more responsible and serious about things. She is currently an initiate of the Church, a place that has been a refuge for her to escape from her difficult home life, and is told that she must complete a pilgrimage in order to determine which Veptist god will claim her. I really appreciated Alani’s outlook on life and how determined she is to make a better life for herself. I think I’m most curious to see how her journey will transpire, as I feel like this pilgrimage will be more than just a religious one, but rather one that may really help her discover who she is and what she wants out of life. The Church was a refuge to her at the time, but will it continue to be what she needs?
Despite Balt and Alani’s differences–or perhaps because of–they have an incredibly strong friendship that balances out both of their personalities. Each complements the other’s personality by highlighting the areas in which they both excel, as well as by making up for each other’s weaknesses with their own strengths. For instance, Balt often lets his emotions take over his actions, which gives Alani the opportunity to share her own advice and help Balt learn to move past things that may upset him. I also found myself amused and appreciating the authenticity of this relationship by seeing Alani get annoyed by Balt’s recklessness throughout their journey, but being unable to stay too annoyed with him for long because they just work together too well.
Also, I’ll talk about Jekua more a little later when I talk about the main 'magic system' of this book, but since they are sort of characters to me, I just wanted to note now how much I adored them and had such a fun time meeting each one. One of my favorite bits was Riddle’s inclusion of a few ‘excerpts’ from Balt’s grandma’s book of Jekua, which includes illustrations and notes about them. I genuinely cannot wait to (hopefully) see more of these in the future, as they really helped bring everything to life!
As much as I love the characters in this book so far, let’s dive into the next best thing about this series: the world and magic system! I’m loving this world so far and am so excited by knowing that this is just the start of what is sure to be an even more expansive and exciting world. In this first book, we visit a couple main locations, and Riddle’s descriptions of these islands and Balt and Alani’s journeys to them were so vivid and intoxicating that it makes me want to visit them all myself. Riddle has done an excellent job of creating a world that I honestly just want to go hang out in and explore, and if we’re being honest, there aren’t always that many fantasy worlds I’d actually want to visit!
The magic system is one of the main components of this book and also one of the most exciting, so let’s talk about that for a little. Much like Pokemon, Jekua are the many animal-like creatures that inhabit this world, each with their own unique skills and abilities. Jekua Summoners use special devices called kayets to ‘imprint’ them, essentially creating a copy of them, which they can then use to have battles with other Summoners and their own Jekua. Summoners have to train with their Jekua in order to work cohesively together and can learn a wide myriad of tricks and techniques to become better and stronger competitors, many of which go on to compete in tournaments and acclaim great fame for their skills. I haven’t read all that many progressive fantasy books, so I wasn’t sure exactly what I might be getting into this time around, but I have to say that I had such a blast learning about the mechanics of summoning. From the hard rules about imprinting and how to work Jekua to the more varied lessons about teaching Jekua new skills and learning how to better work with them, I was fully engrossed and watched everything play out in my hand like a movie.
I also really appreciated the additional component of mana that go with working with Jekua, which essentially dictates how much ‘energy’ a Summoner has while working with their Jekua-if you run out of mana, you risk soulsickness, a deeply unpleasant illness that has more dire consequences if it becomes a more common occurrence. This reminded me so much of stamina bars in games (and also how annoyed I get at them, haha!). Even though Pokemon already exists, I wish this series could become a game so that I could play it and do all the fun things that Balt is doing, as well as explore all the different islands along with Alani. (Side note: Alani’s pilgrimage requires her to visit some different shrines from various churches, and I had a hard flashback to having to visit a bunch of different shrines from Breath of the Wild and I thought that was super fun, intentional or not.)
The pacing of On Lavender Tides was perfect. I wouldn’t call it fast- or slow-paced, but rather relaxed and deliberate. It reminded me of a focused vacation where you’re relaxed and free from work so you can take your time, admire the view, taste the local food, etc., but you also have a goal in mind of where you want to go and what you want to see. It’s purposeful, but not rushed, and we readers get to take our time in each and every location and scene in all the best ways possible (and for those like me who love food descriptions in their books, Riddle once again does not disappoint in the slightest with that. I think I’ve actually started looking forward to descriptions of food in his books at this point…)
I think this review is shaping up to be way longer than most people probably want to read, so I’ll try to wrap it up here by saying that if you are looking for a book that has a fun coming-of-age vibe, two friends embarking on a journey together to discover themselves, a vibrant and exciting new world to explore, adorable and intriguing creatures, and an all-around delightful and engrossing story, then you’re going to want to pick up a copy of On Lavender Tides. Trust me on this one.
Overall, it's five stars from me!
*I received a copy of On Lavender Tides courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.*
Buy the book: Amazon