Review: Frank Penny and The Last Black Stag

The latest book in the Frank Penny series, published by Eyrie Press, proves one thing very clearly; that this is a series with character at its heart.

Frank and his friends are packed with a strong sense of hope, bravery and a draw to adventure. These traits make these young characters so enjoyable to follow, particularly when they come into constant contact with crueller, viler characters like Icarus Emerald and his father. They stand up to their bullies, and for each other. Meanwhile, as the book eases down a path of adventure, Frank grapples with the teenage plight of adolescent love with girlfriend Libby. Her entrance into the group is fraught with tension, and this series may yet reveal how her disruption of the group’s dynamic will play out. Will she become an ongoing addition? Is she not quite what she seems? Before any danger strikes, it is via his compelling characters that Elson engages his readers.

The Frank Penny Series, Eyrie Press

On their quest to find the guardians of Simbrian, a plot which this book gracefully gets its readers up to speed on, Frank and his friends must venture beyond the borders of their safe land and into Kzarlac. This dangerous land, that they’re repeatedly warned against entering, is where they face their challenges. Frank seems to have an inherently good moral compass and ability to do the right thing, even when he’s outnumbered within the group. Frank and his friends’ adventure is heavy with secrets; they cannot be found in Kzarlac at risk of death, not even Frank’s father knows of his exploits. Elson takes things slow, building a sense that their journey will get more complicated and darker as the series continues. The world is affectionately imagined and built, and the characters make it easy to enter. This endearing YA series has potential to rival its predecessors of the genre, particularly when the danger and action heats up.