The Ballyman Waits

24.95$ inc. GST

The Mirror of Seasons 1

by: S.J. Mckenzie

294 pages
129mm x 198mm
ISBN: 9780648118602

SKU: 9780648118602 Category:


Henry Mighty and Strange Moran are concerned with keeping the pub on the isolated island of Mora running, observing proper customs at all times, and of course, saving Henry’s young and magical nephew Wayward from the Kildareen Empire.

It didn’t seem too much to ask from a pair of hearty and well-mannered wood elves. But as they drink and ponder their options, a pair of raft men are being drawn their way, the high elves are about to make their first appearance since their defeat by the Kildareens more than a century earlier, and a powerful and ambitious wizard is about to leave his plotting in the dwarven mines of Elonia and turn his attention to their little island. In the midst of it all, a strange and powerful creature known as the Ballyman is also being drawn, on his little coracle, to Mora. But will the appearance of the Ballyman save them, or bring down the wrath of the Kildareen Empire?


  1. Henry Mighty, proprietor of Bell’s Last Hotel.

    For a human, Mr. McKenzie has done an admirable job of telling the story of how the elvish folk of Mora stood up to the might of the Kildareen Empire. Indeed, the songs of our victory would be sung until the last ringing, except that we can never speak of the matter, lest the Kildareens find out what actually happened.

  2. Doctor Jonas Bearing, Emissary of the Kildareen Empire.

    This account of events on the island of Mora is wildly inaccurate. In particular, I would protest that the Kildareen Empire is portrayed unfairly. Our rule is for the benefit of all subjects, whether human, dwarf or elf.

  3. High Lord James Faraday of Kildare.

    When we get our hands on this writer calling himself S.J. McKenzie, we will extract from him what he knows, and the identity of his sources. I swear we will put an end to these slanderous lies concerning magic more powerful than our own.

  4. Tina Morganella – author

    There are wood elves, high elves, humans, ballykins and of course The Dreamer. There’s royalty, scandal, and an epic battle scene. There’s a bit of romance! Lots of magic, of course, and lots of humour, perhaps surprisingly. Ultimately, The Ballyman Waits is one of those books that pitches good against evil, and all of those ingredients together make for a fine read. Perhaps the most enchanting element of the book is the wood elves’ story. They are so innocent, so beautifully drawn and articulated, that you’re immediately on their side. Their simplicity is thought provoking. You want to be friends with them, you definitely want to drink and feast with them, and you really really want them to win.
    What’s key in any genre is storytelling. The Ballyman Waits weaves a number of stories together from a number of different perspectives and points in history, so that at first, perhaps you don’t quite know your bearings. But the storytelling is confident and bold, and to me that was part of the interest in reading – not knowing how things would come together and where I would find myself at the end. This is a powerful, thought provoking fantasy and it’s exciting to know that there’s more to come!

  5. Phil Bell (verified owner)

    The Ballyman Waits is a surprising and captivating novel from S.J.McKenzie. The story is set in a well-crafted fantasy world that puts a new slant on established tropes such as elves, wizards and trolls. This world provides the setting for an intriguing story that plays out to a climactic conflict while also exploring cultural differences and the different kinds of power.

    For much of the book, the plot progresses in three separate story arcs. The key arc follows a village of wood elves on the island of Mora, as they deal with the unwelcome arrival of three humans. The humans are wizards and they represent the Kildareen Empire, which has sovereignty over the island though with little day-to-day involvement. The purpose of this new visit is to identify magically-gifted young elves and take them away. One lad, in particular, has caught their attention.

    One of the delights of the book is observing the culture of the wood elves and the approach of their society to discussing and dealing with issues that affect them all. McKenzie has devised an
    internally-consistent and delightfully quirky set of cultural traits for these elves. As we observe their interactions we gradually come to understand the quiet wisdom of these folk and to see how it is overlooked and dismissed by the more dominant race. This is all presented with a wry humour that remains through the climax of the book, even as we discover some of the power that lies hidden within these simple villagers.

    A second arc follows a pair of raft-men, again presented with humour and providing a glimpse of a quite different subculture. One of the raft-men is having dreams that are tied to the fate of the wood-elves and will eventually lead the raft-men to Mora.

    The third arc follows a self-important Kildareen wizard and gives an opportunity to understand more about the empire and its dealings with the other races. This wizard will also have a hand in the final drama of the book when the three story arcs come together. This drama will involve the race of high elves, ancient rulers of this land, as well as the mysterious ballyman who appears at first in dreams but will have an impact on reality.

    I found this book a confident and accomplished first novel. McKenzie has spent time cross-culturally in the Pacific islands, and this has equipped him to develop realistic and interesting
    societies very different to the dominant cultures of our world. I particularly enjoy the dialogue of the wood elves and how we are drawn into an understanding of their ways. The Ballyman Waits is definitely a rewarding and entertaining read.

  6. Claire Belberg – author of The Golden Hour (verified owner)

    Delightful! McKenzie has created a world with a rich sense of history and culture, and gives us charming, quirky characters. These magical wood elves, high elves, dwarves and humans are not quite like any others I have read. The plot was a bit of a mystery at the start as I was catching on to the lingo and the culture, but it moved quickly and kept me turning those pages eagerly. There was plenty of action and humour, and battle scenes which were also highly original and entertaining. I’ll be buying this novel for gifts this year!

  7. John (verified owner)

    Wow! I cannot recommend this one enough!

    I really, really enjoyed this book.

    At first, I was worried by the number of characters and several storylines – but McKenzie paints a wonderfully rich, funny, and thrilling adventure that leaves no character neglected nor storythread abandoned. Quite a feat!

    The Elves, Dwarves, and stupid humans all have distinct histories and motivations – without falling into the GAME OF THRONES-esque histrionic nonsense. Which means the story moves forward without pretense or over-detailed bull-larkey.

    The action is clear and unmuddled by overly cinematic abstractions. The battle is well fought and I never questioned what was happening or how. Rather an impressive trick considering the number of fronts the battle was pitched.

    The Ballyman Waits fits nicely into the timeless fantasy canon, unaffected by cliche or fad. Given the chance, McKenzie’s work should endure and find a wide readership.

  8. Andrew Lynch (verified owner)

    This is a gripping fantasy story about how the inhabitants of a small island and some friends join forces to fight against their exploitation by tech-head imperialists who despise their ancient magical culture. Moving, funny and cleverly plotted, with a darker side of dreams and danger.

  9. Thomas Wissler for Mythprint – Quarterly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society (verified owner)

    The wood elves are happily living on an island in an archipelago on the outskirts of the human regime on a small misty island named Mora. There, the elven protagonist Henry Mighty is busy keeping his pub running, as it is a gathering point for the elven community to eat and socialize together. This includes taking care of his young nephew, Wayward. However, this all changes as some human scholars from the technocratic Kaldareen Empire visit the island to conduct experiments on Wayward, as young elves possess the ability to enter a mysterious dream world. These dreams are prophetic, but difficult to interpret, as it is a land separated through another dimension. This dream world connects Wayward with a half-elf named Malacorn, a raft-man who travels to and from various islands in the archipelago who is also have strange dreams. Meanwhile, the high elves are preparing to make their first appearance in over a century. Using this dreamworld, Wayward is calling to the Ballyman, a being who can travel through time and space to fight back against the oppressive human empire. The cultural aspects of the different races of creatures are drives the plot. The Kildareen’s Wizards are focused, intellectual, and organized. The culture has a clear command structure of powerful wizards and leaders at the top, flowing down to less powerful wizards who do more busy grunt work. This is in stark contrast with the elves, who are much more relaxed and focus more on living in the moment. The elves’ stature differs from the Tolkinien elves, and instead lean towards traditional elves: small statured creatures with an affinity towards nature. As such, the magic and culture of the elves is steeped in folklore, spoken word, hexes and curses. This makes their magic, and their interactions with hostile characters, take on a more natural form such as poisoning, a run of bad luck, or inclement weather. The magic of humans, on the other hand, is cold and intellectual, and is described manifesting as shimmering blue light. This magic focuses on direct influence and power such as creating a shield, a destructive beam, or teleportation. While there are other fantastic races such as trolls and dwarves, they do not have any magical abilities. These differences in culture and use of magic make the humans, despite being the obvious antagonists in the story, the ones who are more active and move the story along to its climax. The elves themselves are more concerned of the day to day minutiae of their lives rather than seeking vengeance. They come across as very hobbity compared to any other race in the story.

    While the premise of the book is interesting, there are some weaknesses in the story. As it is part of a four book series, some characters who are introduced in the story do not develop and continue the overall plot. This can make the plot appear out of focus, as chapters dedicated to developing characters for later books seem out of place in comparison to the story arc. This is a good book for people who enjoy a slower paced young adult novel with traditional fantasy archetypes. This book does not have the grand fantasy style of Game of Thrones, but rather a smaller and more intimate style without the titillation of excessive violence and sexuality written in. McKenzie has written is a good founding for future books as well as an interesting fantasy land whose themes will hopefully be expanded in future releases.

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