Review: Charley Whistlebrick and his League of Exceptional Youngest Sons

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Charley Whistlebrick and his League of Exceptional Youngest Sons
by Alexandra Staeben

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charley Whistlebrick / B003CV7RP0

Quilliam Elmond is trying to drink himself into a stupor - and with good reason. As the youngest son of the poorest nobles in the country, he doesn't merely have nothing more to look forward to in life than a stint in the royal military - he also has the added danger and humiliation of only being able to afford a private's rank, not the customary captain's rank usually reserved for youngest sons. Between his frustration at his fate, his fear for his future, and the alcohol he's been downing steadily all evening, Quill seems ripe and easy pickings for Charley, the gregarious and strange recruiter who has entered the bar with an unusual proposition for Quill...

With a clever premise, this excerpt seeks to explore what can happen when a cadre of youngest sons, all thoroughly fed up with the right of primogeniture, band together as a group to change their fortunes. The dialogue is clever, with much of it centering around the character of Charley, an audacious "recruiter" who is collecting noble youngest sons for this venture. Intriguingly, we are introduced later in the excerpt to Malcolm, who serves as a contrasting foil to Charley and his band of dissatisfied nobles - Malcolm is a hard-working eldest son who has given up his right of inheritance in order to follow his dreams. It will be interesting, I think, to explore the contrasts presented between the idealistic, hard-working Malcolm, and the disillusioned and entitled young nobles that Charley collects.

As intriguing as the novel premise is, I can't help but feel that the opening could use just a tiny bit more "pop" and polish. Some potential tension in the character of Charley seems lost when Quill (the POV narrator at this point) keeps assuring the reader that Charley seems awfully trustworthy. And while Quill is fairly drunk and doesn't seem to be the best judge of character in the world, I still found the frequent reassurances to be a little disappointing - deliberately leaving the question open of whether or not Charley was playing these young nobles for his own interests would be a nice element of tension. I was also slightly confused as to the actual details entailed in Charley's proposition to Quill - it's not instantly clear from the narrative what Quill is risking in joining with Quill. Can Quill's military service be replaced with this commitment to the tournament? If not, and I assume not, then Quill is risking...what, exactly? Will his failure to report to service potentially hurt him? His family? Will Quill ever be able to see his family again, even if his venture is successful? What, precisely, is he risking, and how will the potential rewards offset this risk? A little more of these details would help the reader to understand Quill's position and character, as well as that of Charley.

Overall, I found this excerpt to be fun and pleasing to read, with an interesting premise and strong premise and I would like to read more.

 NOTE: This review is based on a sample excerpt of this book provided through the ABNA contest.

~ Ana Mardoll

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