4.5/5 Stars Fast-Paced, High-Octane, Unrelenting High Fantasy
I have been eying this book for a while, drawn by the amazing cover art and intrigued by the description. It has been out for a while (released in 2011) and looks to have gone through several editorial sweeps since then.
This is high-fantasy and the story captures mythical and fantastical creatures from across the wide spectrum of the genre and mashes them together brilliantly. Now I know reading is very subjective, it’s a bit like baking a cake. Some readers will love what the author has done and embrace the stereotypes that are unabashedly used, others won’t. Some like a dark rich chocolate cake, I don’t. The thing is, I don’t eat dark chocolate cake and so if you read the description and like the sound of it, then you will love the book because it delivers on that promise. If you don’t then don’t eat the cake, it is not for you.
So first up, I loved the story, it was well-plotted with loads of twists and turns and ladened with action that is pretty much unrelenting. The descriptive narrative was vivid and sketched wonderful images in my mind.
The story is written in the 3rd person and is almost entirely focused around our protagonist, Farden, one of the few Written Mages. I loved the concept of a mage with an archaic script, a magical tome inked upon their back. Each Written’s script is uniquely crafted, once they pass the years of trials.
We join Farden, a hardened, lone-wolf mage (as most of the Written tend to be) as he battles a wyrm and so you get to see (read) him in action from the get-go. I must confess, I was not immediately drawn to our hero. He was dangerous and brooding but not particularly pleasant though as the story progressed I was sucked into his life and the little reveals that the author drops that added depth and reason to who/why he is like he is. By a third in I was invested in this guy.
Farden is flawed which seems to be a trait these days, you can’t have a hero unless he or she is flawed, and he has many, his temper and tendency to not trust or rely on others, his overriding desire to be better than his failed uncle which hinders him more than helps and his addiction. The addiction by the way is brilliantly written and wonderfully evoked and that in and of itself makes Farden pretty original in the genre. I liked that his addiction was an antithesis to his other addiction, magic.
The story was kind of machiavellian except that there were not enough characters of detail to add that much jeopardy. I was not surprised by any of the twists but that does not mean they weren’t deliciously delivered and the scale of the badassery I fully admit to under-estimating.
At the end of the day, an author has one job to do and that is to tell a story that will keep their reader, at worst engaged and at best enthralled. Well, this story enthralled me. In fact, there are few writers, especially indie writers, that inspire me to want to write better and Ben did that for me.
I don’t need to tell you this but I will. I loved this story. It is like a guilty pleasure and the best news is, it’s only the first in the series.