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Double Review: The Gauntlet Runner – J. Scott Coatsworth

The Gauntlet Runner - J. Scott Coatsworth

Genre: Sci-Fantasy, YA-Adult Crossover

Reviewers: Maryann, Ulysses

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About The Book

A guard and a thief. What could go wrong?

Aik has fallen hopelessly in love with his best friend. But Raven’s a thief, which makes things … complicated. Oh, and Raven has just been kidnapped by a dragon.

Now Aik is off on a quest of his own, to hunt down the foul beast and make them give back his … friend? Lover? Soulmate? The whole not-knowing thing just makes everything harder.

Meanwhile, the world of Tharassas is falling apart, besieged by earthquakes, floods, and strange creatures no one has ever seen before. Aik’s ex, Silya has gone back to Gullton to do try to save her people as the Hencha Queen, and Aik’s stuck in a caravan with her mother and a damnable magical gauntlet that won’t let him be. He has to find Raven, before it’s too late.

Things were messy before … but now they’re much, much worse.

The Reviews


Aik (Aiken Erio) want’s to save his best friend (and now boyfriend?) Raven, but to venture out on his own would mean a sure death. If he travels into the Ce’Faine country it would violate the Highlands Treaty, and beheading would be his likely end. And even if he manages to save Raven, Kerrick (Ser Kek) will likely take Raven to stand trial for thievery. Aik is lost.

Then Silya’s mother Tri’Aya comes to his rescue. she has planned a ten-day trade caravan to the Ce’Faine, and would be happy to take Aik along as a guard.  

As Aik travels with Tri’Aya, he discovers some strange things. As he fights against the gauntlet that’s slowly driving him crazy, he makes a mistake, and Tri’Aya finds him talking with Spin, Raven’s AI “familiar.” Aik also has to keep an eye on Mes, one of the other guards, who seems to hate him.

When Silya finds out that Tri’Aya has invited her ex, Aik, to travel with the caravan, she’s angry, and feels her mother should have consulted with her about it.  Silya offers one of her Temple initiates, Desla (Des’Rya), to join the caravan too, to keep an eye on Aik.

As the caravan heads to the Highlands, Silya returns to Gullton. The journey is not easy, with the danger of a collapsed bridge and a river rising. Silya is losing time, and there’s only six days left until the two moons, Tarsis and Pellin arise in conjunction, when bad things are supposed to happen. She will have to plead her case to the Council to get their help preparing Gullton for what’s to come.

Raven (Rav’Orn) has now spent several weeks at Mountainhome, the home of the dragon-like verent. He’s slowly getting acquainted with the other verent riders –  Jai, Astrid, Chala, and Olier aka Olly. Raven is homesick, and is missing both Aik and Spin. He can only hope Aik is keeping Spin safe. He learns more about the Verent, and what it all means for him to be part of his own verent Breeze’s family, and gets his first look at the mountain of prophecy, Anghar Nor.

Everyone is on their own perilous journey, and decisions will have to be made.  Will they be right or wrong? And what of the the spore mother, somewhere deep in a cavern, sending her children into the world to carry out her work?

Coatsworth doesn’t miss a beat with The Gauntlet Runner, sequel to The Dragon Eater. The world building is amazing and clearly descriptive. All the main characters return for their own stories of adventure, and become more fleshed out as the story continues.

The book will keep you wondering what will happen next, and even with all that it encompasses, the story flows easily and the plot thickens.

Not that The Dragon Eater wasn’t exciting enough, but The Gauntlet Runner is even more adventurous, action-packed, filled with intense moments of danger and excitement, with collapsing bridges, swarms of creepy insects and many other surprises – it would make a great movie.

I highly recommend The Gauntlet Runner, but be sure to read The Dragon Eater first. I can’t wait for the next exciting book in “The Tharassas Cycle!” 


Gah. I am not a patient person, and now I have to wait for the third book in what will be the four-book Tharassas Cycle. Scott Coatsworth has kept the excitement and the emotion high in this second installment, moving the saga of Raven and Aik and Silya along, while taking care to remind the reader of what happened in the last book.

Set in the fantasy world of Tharassas, The Gauntlet Runner title refers specifically to Aik’s story – a Gullton Guard, onetime boyfriend of Temple initiate Silya, and now the beloved of Aladdin-like thief Raven. Aik is the quasi-captive of a mysterious gauntlet that gives him as-yet-unknown powers. Aik is also the current possessor of Spin, Raven’s familiar, which is in fact an unimaginably complex high-tech object that was the main drive control for the last Earth spaceship to crash-land on Tharassas, centuries earlier. In this world, concepts of space and space travel are mythical and inconceivable, and so Spin is considered magical.

Our three friends are split up here: Raven now in the verent (dragon) stronghold in the far East of Tharassas. Aik and Triya (Silya’s mother, a wealthy trader from whose country house the verent stole Raven) set out on a quest to find Raven. At the same time Silya, the newly-raised Hencha Queen, heads with her crew back to Gullton, aware that something cataclysmic is about to happen.

It’s a lot, and I was glad to realize as I read that things felt more and more familiar, including the complex system of names, and the equally complicated inner selves of the three young protagonists. Coatsworth is very good at delving into the backstories of the three teenagers (for that’s what they are). Getting to know Aik, Silya and Raven helps illuminate just why it is that they have become the collective salvation of the planet from the hidden forces of an alien race (or, I should say, another alien race).

The three personalities of the reluctant young heroes are beautifully sketched out. Each of flawed and annoying in their own way; but they also trigger all my protective parental switches. Each of them knows that there’s something they have to do – but none of them are quite sure what that is. Silya adjusts to flexing her political power as Hencha Queen; Raven sets aside his thief’s paranoia to embrace the strange, symbiotic world of the verent (dragons); and Aik simply struggles to realize that is smarter, stronger, and bigger-hearted than he ever understood. Each of them feels isolated, and yet acknowledges that they are surrounded by people who care about them.

Coatsworth also gives us constant visuals that, at least for a person like me, create a cinematic sense of what Tharassas looks like. All the plant life is in shades of purple or red, while the sky is green. I’m not sure about the science behind that on another world, but the actors in the drama have known nothing else, reminding us that the concept of normal depends on where you are and who you are. The author is also very good at describing materials, giving the reader a strong physical sense of place as the story unspools. Reading this book is an immersive experience, and a great pleasure.

On a final note: this book is a voyage of discovery for Spin as well. Clearly his role in this saga is not understood by either Raven or Aik – or, possibly, Spin himself. Spin is a strange link to our own time and place (he’s always coming up with cultural references that make the characters in the story shrug with confusion). Spin is us, and we are visitors to another time and place just as he is.

Five stars.

The Reviewers

Maryann: Hi, I’m Maryann, I started life in New York, moved to New Hampshire and in 1965 uprooted again to Sacramento, California. Once I retired I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida in 2011 and just moved back to Sacramento in March of 2018. My son, his wife and step-daughter flew out to Florida and we road tripped back so they got to see sights they have never seen. New Orleans and the Grand Canyon were the highlights. Now I am back on the west coast again to stay! From a young age Ialways liked to read.

I remember going to the library and reading the “Doctor Dolittle” books by Hugh Lofting. Much later on became a big fan of the classics, Edgar Alan Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and as time went by Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury and Stephen Kingand many other authors.

My first M/M shifter book I read was written by Jan Irving the “Uncommon Cowboys” series from 2012. She was the first author I ever contacted and sent an email to letting her know how much I liked this series. Sometime along the way I read “Zero to the Bone”by Jane Seville, I think just about everyone has read this book!

As it stands right now I’m really into mysteries, grit, gore and “triggers” don’t bother me. But if a blurb piques my interest I will read the book.

My kindle collection eclectic and over three thousand books and my Audible collection is slowly growing. I have both the kindle and audible apps on my ipod, ipads, and MAC. So there is never an excuse not to be listening or reading.

I joined Goodreads around 2012 and started posting reviews. One day a wonderful lady, Lisa Horan of The Novel Approach, sent me an email to see if I wanted to join her review group. Joining her site was such an eye opener. I got introduce to so many new authors that write for the LGBTQ genre. Needless to say, it was heart breaking when it ended.

But I found a really great site, QRI and it’s right here in Sacramento. Last year at QSAC I actually got to meet Scott Coatsworth, Amy Lane and Jeff Adams.

Ulysses: Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City.