Daughter of the Beast by E.C. Greaves


When her sleepy village is raided by the Vulkari, the fearsome warrior women of the Ancient Wilds, only Zyntael Fairwinter is taken.

Claimed as a daughter by their infamous matriarch, Zyntael is trained to hunt, to fight, and to killall for a purpose, which remains ever out of her grasp.

In the company of their unruly young, she might find sisterhood. In their unique customs and beliefs, she might find beauty. And in the violence of their raids, she might even find glory.

But it is the reason for her capture that Zyntael truly seeks. It is a truth that must be earned from the very Spirits of the dead; a future paid for in the blood of those Zyntael once called her own. It is a purpose that promises the liberation of not just she, but all of the Ancient Wilds, from an evil far greater than any marauding warrior women.

Warrior or no, however, the Vulkari are not like other women. The Vulkari are monsters.

And sometimes, only the truly monstrous have what it takes to save the world.


Daughter of the Beast is the first book of E.C. Greaves’ The Vyshivka Trilogy and is a finalist for the SPFBO9 competition. And I reckon it packs a proverbial punch right from the off. Told via first person point of view, this tale follows eleven-summers-old Zyntael Fairwinter as she’s captured by the beast-like Vulkari only to be raised and indoctrinated as she comes of age within their warrior culture. Whether it’s because Zyntael’s naive narrative arc appealed to me at this particular moment in time or because of Mr. Greaves’ magnetic prose, I have to say, this was one hell of a ride.

Here’s the thing, for me, I don’t usually enjoy 1st person POV because most of the time, the prose isn’t dynamic enough or that the character whose headspace I’m occupying isn’t all that interesting. Mostly it’s a combination of both. Often, 1st person to me seems too step-by-step: I do this, then I do that before I do that, typically starting most sentences with “I” then a verb. That’s incredibly boring for me and I struggle to maintain interest in a story. Similarly, if I’m going to be spending an entire story in one character’s mind, that character needs to be electric, whether that be through voice or behaviors. But they also need to be a combination of wholly human traits, i.e. funny, witty, brash, stupid at times, fallible, etc. Luckily, DotB has both going for it!

Zyntael is such a wonderful character and I clicked with her right away. She’s kind of a bulldog in her personality (which helps her survive the trials she comes to face), she’s extremely intelligent (both emotionally and mentally), she’s naive as all hell (seriously, she knows nothing, Jon Snow), she behaves exactly like a girl then teenager should (her aging is accurate as it is funny), she’s funny (pretty good with a comeback), & she’s pretty clueless at times (I’m serious, she knows nothing about nothing). But above all, she’s capable and loyal to a fault.

Zyntael’s story starts out very brutal as she’s taken from her home by the Vulkari Warlord, Karthak, without knowing if she’s to end up as a slave or as meat for the next meal. The Vulkari are a wolf-like clan where the females are the warriors and the males are the workers. She knows not why Karthak has taken her (this mystery is only partially revealed during the story) but she’s the key to the Vulkari future. From her attempt to escape with Gnome, Phobos Lend, to her adoption by Karthak, to her spending some months working under the Goblin Legion, to her indoctrination into Vulkari warrior culture with the other female pups, finally to becoming a true Vulkari raider who canoodles with the Legion Commander’s son, Zyn’s story is one not only of growth, but of discovery. And she goes through a lot of both.

One facet about Zyn’s story arc that drew me in was her complete lack of understanding what was going on around her. This story is very limited to what Zyn knows/sees at any given moment and Mr. Greaves ensures we, the readers, don’t learn anything more than she does. At first it was somewhat irritating because I wanted to know what the heck was going on with the Vulkari, with the Legion, the rest of the world, but then I came to appreciate that limited scope, it leaves us wanting more, just as much as Zyn does. It also connects us to Zyn better because she’s a growing child in this vicious world and she has to learn not only how to survive, but how to adapt. It also allows a lot of levity between the characters who become Zyn’s sisters, it allows these characters to joke with each other quite naturally, which in turn, makes this story less big picture and instead, more personal. I really enjoyed that.

But Zyntael could be as awesome as the most awesomest character ever but it wouldn’t matter if the prose didn’t match. I’m happy to say, Mr. Greaves’ prose is stellar. There’s a dynamism to how the words flow, but not just the weaving of the story but also how they tell us more about who Zyn is as a character.

‘In a way, I was beginning to suspect that the small Vulkar was right. It felt good to be the victor, to take what I deserved by the strength of my own determination and grit. Perhaps those Sacharri slaves were right to treat me as an outsider—something vile and violent and not at all like them. Something dangerous.

Perhaps it would explain, then, how easily I let the tragedy of my past slip away from my memory, over the following summer spent in the wild and exciting company of those monsters.

And perhaps it would explain how I became a monster too.’

Can you not feel the emotion oozing from those few sentences??? Not only do we learn how Zyn feels about her past and her future, but how she is slowly coming to grips with who she has become, a far cry from where she started. That, gentle friends, is dynamic prose in action! And this book seeps with this type of writing.

Another neat trick that Mr. Greaves uses is also illustrated in that quote above, that is the ending paragraphs of a chapter. He does this nearly every chapter, leaving us with a semi-cliffhanger, urging us to continue on and see what awaits Zyn next. A teaser, if you will. I loved this because this story is briskly paced, there are very few lulls between action and/or true character growth for Zyn. So, those teasers just beg you to read another chapter, and then another until you’ve finished the whole dang thing.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that the world crafted in DotB is top notch. It draws heavily from Slavic folklore and I found that interesting. The vyshivka concept was really cool and how Mr. Greaves not only weaved (pun!) the garment into the Vulkari culture, but each “part” of the story is called a “stitch”, and each “stitch” represents a growth period for Zyntael. It’s also quite interesting that there isn’t a single human character in this entire book. Zyn is a Kimori, essentially a brownie. There are hobgoblins, gnomes, wolf-beasts, and other types of fae. I liked that a lot. Sure, Zyn reads as human, but because she’s not, there were countless times her differences were illustrated on page, especially those between the “bare-skins” and the Vulkari. Really rad stuff!

Daughter of the Beast hit the perfect chord for me as a fantasy reader. The characters, especially Zyntael, our cheeky protagonist, are all great. The world is fascinating and I’m eager to see what happens in the sequel. Also, just need to point out that E.C. Greaves is one of the coolest dudes on the interwebs, give him a follow if you don’t already!