Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Indie, Magic

A Story Of The Most Unusual Friendship And Lots Of Adventuring Harpyness is Only Skin Deep and Finding Your Harpy Place by D.H. Willison

Well, this was one hell of a story! Today I’m going to tell you about two books in a series called The Tales of Arvia, and it’s just about the most unusual set of books I’ve ever read. Harpyness is Only Skin Deep and Finding Your Harpy Place should really work for someone who’s into fantasy and RPGs – it’s like a wild and very unusual literary exploration of a gaming fantasy world.

Imagine switching out your life, your entire life, to be a… Well, essentially, a changeling. What’s in it for you? You get to go to another dimension, a fantasy world, something you’ve never experienced. And it’s free.

The catch? You may never come back. And you may not like where you’re stuck, because let’s just count the amount of times magical contracts have ever worked out for anyone of the human persuasion..?

That’s essentially the premise of the stories in The Tales of Arvia. Wild, isn’t it? Of course the main character agrees. And we get to go on a journey with him – and discover a whole new life. ‘Wild’ being the keyword, and ‘life’ works as well – even better if you put those together, because Arvia is a world teeming with incredibly dangerous wildlife.

Harpyness is Only Skin Deep by D.H. Willison

Check out on Goodreads
★★★✬✰ 3.5 stars
How I read this:
free ebook copy received from author

Darin, the main character of Harpiness Is Only Skin-Deep is a man tired of his life, who often escapes into fantasy worlds – mostly through gaming. One day, though, his dream comes true – he can ACTUALLY escape this time – into a REAL fantasy world.

It almost seems too good to be true – a world where you can learn magic, and will need to perform all sorts of odd jobs. Recipe for RPG, anyone? It’s not much of a decision for someone who has already been wanting to escape his life for a while.

Unfortunately… We always think the grass is greener on the other side. And as it turns out, fantasies are best when you escape to them only for a couple hours with a console and a controller.

Finding Your Harpy Place (Tales of Arvia 2) by D.H. Willison

Check out on Goodreads
★★★★✰ 4 stars
How I read this:
free ebook copy received from author

Book two is called Finding Your Harpy Place, and it’s a continuation of Darin’s adventures on Arvia. They may not be called adventures in the RPG sense, because as it turns out, it’s much, MUCH harder to be an adventurer in real life than it is in games.

But in Finding Your Harpy Place, Darin is already much more used to this dangerous world he’s now living in, and becomes quite capable. Book two is a lot more full of dangerous adventures, but it carries the same old thread – everything revolves around the most unusual of friendships that I haven’t mentioned here yet – Darin’s friendship with a giant, predatory and dangerous harpy Rinloh. Who also happens to have a kind and gentle heart.

Finding Your Harpy Place is full of wild escapades, brushes with death and all sorts of talking predators. Plus a few touching emotional moments!

It’s A Pleasant, Funny Read

The Tales of Arvia books are very readable and instantly engrossing. I’ve been in a sort of slump for a while, but had no trouble with getting into this story at all. It’s got a good flow and a great sense of humour. My inner monster hungering for scifi comedies was appeased.

harpy place 1

An image of a color PocketBook ereader screen, showing the cover of Finding Your Harpy Place, propped up against a stack of books, with various items like dried flowers, a candle, a pine cone and candies strewn all around it; photo by AvalinahsBooks

An Unlikely Friendship

The Tales of Arvia is not only about adventuring though, it’s also, of course, about harpies! Or more like, one particular harpy, the runt of the pack, that Darin makes friends with.

It’s a very unexpected friendship – after all, humans are one of the types of prey for a harpy. But Rinloh, Darin’s harpy friend, soon learns that there are things even someone as small as Darin can teach her.

Read about an unusual friendship between a harpy and its prey – a human being. It's set in an RPG-like fantasy world, and there will be adventures! Click To Tweet

While Rinloh is huge compared to the tiny man, she is much younger emotionally as well as in terms of age, and Darin becomes sort of her mentor. It’s a truly interesting relationship – how can someone small and defenceless ascertain and defend someone so big and powerful? It’s the contrast of physical and emotional strength that makes the story of this friendship so striking.

It is also the oddest of friendships – you can’t fit it into any sort of framework. We just don’t have sentient predators here on Earth (and maybe thank god for that…), so you really can only imagine this situation. It’s the strangest relationship of all, and I pondered it quite a few times as I was reading.

Imagine A Real Gamer, Stuck In The World Of One Of Their Games

The main character Darin is such a clueless dork that you just want to protect him all the time. It’s easy to see through what’s going to happen to him, and it made me facepalm a lot. You have to admit though, a character like that is both fun to read about, as well as has a lot of room for character development. “I desperately need to switch to third person view” and “there’s no tick box to uncheck for blood effects” just made me laugh so much.

harpy place 2-small

An image of a color PocketBook ereader screen, showing the cover of Finding Your Harpy Place on a background of wooden floor, with candles, books and jewelry scattered around it; photo by AvalinahsBooks

But despite being somewhat clueless, RPG gaming has still taught him well. Darin is quick with his thinking and, might I say, wise in questing. This comes through especially in the second book, where Darin becomes quite a likeable character! He is cunning and nimble, and gets out of all sorts of scrapes, kind of against all odds and despite being scrawny as hell.

Darin also has another extremely likeable character trait to him – he’s very kind, diplomatic, and I would even say wise. One of of main parts of the story is about Darin making friends with a harpy, which is just… not a thing that happens much, on Arvia. Basically, it doesn’t happen at all, full stop! But Darin makes it work, and his patience and kindness in teaching Rinloh, the harpy, to understand him and learn to be friends and open up her heart, are truly heart-warming. In the end, you find yourself rooting for Darin despite his seeming inability to be an adventurer, because he is just a great human being overall.

Befriending a vicious beast takes a lot of kindness and love! (And maybe it helps if the beast is actually less vicious than you thought.) Read about a #fantasy friendship between human and harpy: Click To Tweet

When Things Truly Start Mattering

An interesting thing about The Tales of Arvia is that it’s… It’s hard to explain, but do you know how sometimes we don’t really value what we have? A comfortable existence, yet a boring one. A day to day job, and nothing good on TV – most of us skip through our lives, we would fast-forward if we could. It’s the same for Darin, the main character of Harpiness Is Only Skin-Deep.

But when he moves to this dangerous world where all he has is a borrowed bed in a boarding house, a few coins to his name and no real safety, anywhere – things start mattering. Darin finds himself motivated to achieve, to do things he’d never thought he’d do (sometimes very dangerous things). And that’s when he notices that suddenly even the smallest memories matter – the first dagger he bought, the first time he could get a private room or completed some sort of training. Small things that don’t really matter, yet they matter a lot. Things only matter when you make them matter. I found this a very meaningful message in the book.

An RPG-like #fantasy book that will remind you how you should count your blessings (warm food, comfy sofa... safety from GIANT HARPIES...) Read more about The Tales of Arvia: Click To Tweet

And yet, all these things matter nothing if he doesn’t have his closest friend with him, as we learn in book two, Finding Your Harpy Place. Darin is willing to scarifice everything for this most important relationship in his life.

The Second Book – Finding Your Harpy Place

To be honest, the two books of Tales of Arvia felt like two chapters of a single book for me! The second book, Finding Your Harpy Place, is written in a way that you could theoretically read it without having read the first one, but I think it makes for a better experience reading them in order. The story is fuller, and the second book slots into place as if the first one never even ended!

In Finding Your Harpy Place, Darin is much more comfortable with his role in this new world, and everything feels more sure in the story. Which is why he will go on adventures more daringly than he did in the first book, and we will get to explore the world outside the little town of Xin where he was staying in the first book, Harpyness is Only Skin Deep! But don’t get confused by that – the story still centers of Darin and Rinloh’s relationship and how important they are to each other.


The Tales of Arvia is a very casual fantasy story – there is no overarching plot as such, although big things do happen to the main characters. Instead, the books are more centered on Darin and Rinloh’s relationship – a quirky, strange, yet beautiful friendship and the exploration of the way we can be different, and yet still understand and love one another.

The stories really do explore the differences between personalities – and not even human beings, because on Arvia – nearly anything can talk to you, and still turn around and eat you. I thought it was a very interesting way to explore how our differences may be vast, but our similarities may still bring us together into close relationships. This was one of the most unusual stories I’ve ever read, but if you’re a fantasy fan, I’m sure you will find it quite a refreshingly different read with interesting philosophical ideas.

Big or small, human or... dangerous predator – apparently, we can still be friends. Well, some of us. Well, maybe only the characters in this RPG-like #fantasy: Click To Tweet

I thank the author giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.