May 2015 Winner: The Last Knight by @MayTijssen

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Our grand prize winner from our May competition was none other than the stunning . Mayra is a talented young writer with a skill for penning fast paced adventures and suspenseful fantasies. Her fantasy adventure The Last Knight was our winner. There was a lot of competition and a number of talented writers, and this is the story that won out.

The Last Knight classic beginning to the hero's journey, and our protagonists have their work cut out for them. This is a tale of a young woman who must pretend to be someone she is not to save her brother and a kingdom. Oh, and marry someone while pretending to be someone else. It is a tale of growth, friendship, heart, and heroism.

My favorite part of this story is the way that Mayra plays with the stereotypes. While the overall literary landscape has certainly been far more inclusive and female protagonists and heroes aren't uncommon, there's still lots of room for fresh takes on the old tropes. And here we have the farm girl rising to potential and coming to save the day. Also who doesn't want a horse named Thunder? (Well, okay, I'd also want another so I could call it Lightning. And maybe I'd call them Donder and Blitzen.)

The world building is classic medieval with swords and archery, royal intrigues and lush landscapes. It's well established and such fun. Since the setting is quite familiar, Mayra streamlines the descriptions and focuses on key establishing details and character essentials. She has a strong writing style that paints a clear picture without overwriting.

But what makes this story stand out are the characters. Especially our protagonist. While Esmeralda may seem like a simple retread at first glance, she is far deeper than that. She has skills, and she has heart, but she isn't perfect. Often these stories turn their protagonists, particularly female ones, into Mary Sues, not allowing them room to grow or to become more than they start as. Esmerelda is far from perfect, but she still has heart. She has weaknesses and opportunities to grow. And guess what? She even cries at points when a young person with her personality and her background would cry.

The court intrigues and the threat of discovery as well as Esmeralda's assigned task add to the suspense as well. It isn't all dragon slaying and easy heroism. This novel tackles a lot of my favorite tropes and scenarios while having a hearty helping of engaging dialogue and intriguing interpersonal relationships.

The story draws you in from the first chapter, and things only heat up from there. If you enjoy adventurous fantasies with a medieval flavor and strong but flawed heroines, then this is the story for you.

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