Title: The Key of the Keplain
Author: Andre Norton and Lyn McCornchie
Series: Secrets of the Witch World #1
Eleeri lives with her great-grandfather, the only relative who loved her. But when he dies, she chooses to flee into the wilderness rather than go back to an aunt and uncle who despise her. Following a map left by her great-grandfather, she finds herself in another world. There she befriends the Keplain, an intelligent horse-like species most fear as servants of the Dark. But soon she has to choose between keeping her comfortable life or confronting the Dark to save one in its clutches.
I was in the mood for a comfort read, so I picked this up. And on that front, it’s fantastic. You can tell where the story’s going immediately, more or less guess how things will play out, so you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. This isn’t going to break any new ground but it offers a pretty solid journey.
Eleeri’s story is almost too contrived in some ways, though. In the beginning when hardly anyone has names, it can be harder to get into the flow of the story. When she first comes to the new world, a lot of the history is dumped in an extended conversation, most of which isn’t relevant to the current story. And the plot often has her thinking “I want” or “Wouldn’t it be nice if” just before something happens that answers that line of thought. I also could’ve done with a bit less time in the final tower. Yes, Dark Lord lives in a black tower that crumbles when he’s vanquished (comfort read, like I said).
What I did really appreciate was the focus on Light and love and gradually building relationships. Eleeri might be stumbling into very fortunate coincidences, but she’s also got to work hard to keep herself in food and clothing and to win the trust of humans and Keplain. Even the romance is built slowly as she first begins to know him and only later realizes that the relationship has gone beyond friendship to something more.
So all in all, this one’s pretty easy to recommend to fans of Valdemar, as it treads a similar road, but those looking for a bit more complexity or drama may want to pass. I should also note that despite Goodreads listing this as part of a series, it’s very much a standalone book, and the sequel doesn’t look to have anything much to do with it. I rate this book Recommended.