Title: A Rival Most Vial
Publisher/Author: RK Ashwick
Pages: 340pp
Price: $15.99 / $3.99

Last month, I reviewed Welcome to Potion Con, a freebie offered by RK Ashwick that lays the groundwork for her on-going Side Quest Row series. I absolutely loved it, and immediately downloaded the first full novel, A Rival Most Vial.

Unfortunately, I devoured A Rival Most Vial in only a few days and now I find myself in the unenviable position of having to wait for the next book.

Bibliophile problems.

This book is many things. Cozy fantasy. Sweet romance. Belated coming-of-age fable. Found-family saga. Treasure hunt. Magical adventure. And much more. This is a wonderful story of friends standing by one another despite — and because of — hurtful words and actions and past trauma; of enemies becoming reluctant partners, and slowly realizing the truths behind their unfair assumptions about one another; of friendship turning to love, a love willing to risk rejection and even death.

And then there’s the world that Ashwick has created. She takes all of the standard fantasy tropes and species, reweaves them, and gives them a shiny new look all her own. Yes, there are humans and elves and gnomes and orcs, but they all get along relatively well, living side by side, trading, sharing tea, and even intermarrying. The city at the center of the story is The Scar, a deep cavern lined with businesses and residences. The sinkholes and pits on the surface above The Scar are filled with weird plants, animals, and fungi, and are perfect for adventuring.

A Rival Most Vial is the literary equivalent of a warm mug of apple cider. You just want to curl up under a comfy blanket and revel in it. I hope that Ashwick returns to this world again and again, so that I can keep reveling in it.

Highly recommended, especially to fans of the Regency Mage series by Joyce Harmon, Dwarves and Daisies by Scott Walker, The Herbwitch’s Apprentice by Ireen Chau, The Lady Jewel Diviner series by Rosalie Oaks, and Drinks and Sinkholes by S. Usher Evans.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]

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