Reviewed by Awesome Indies
September 28, 2012
‘The Warden Threat’ is a light-hearted parody of epic fantasy. Though the genre is noted as science fiction, the science fiction was suggested rather than explicit. It’s a fun read with a darker underlying theme of political and religious manipulation.
Our hero is Prince Donald, third son of the king of Westgrove and quintessential archetypal fool. He’s sweet, naive and idealistic, and longs to be the hero in a story. He’s left the palace to wander the country in search of adventure and to get to know the ordinary people. Luckily his guide is a worldly wise character who is able to moderate the Prince’s impulses. When it comes to his notice that an ancient and massive magical stone warrior known as the Warden of Mystic Defiance in the neighbouring kingdom is going to be woken and used in a war against Westgrove, Donald sees it as his chance to prove his mettle and be the one to save the kingdom.
Nothing turns out as he planned. Everything is much more complex and difficult than he imagined, and it soon becomes apparent that in real life, the hero is not always predestined to save the day.
However, true to the fool archetype, his amusing bungles make it clear to him that he knows nothing, and that knowledge makes him open to the truth. Because he wanders with ordinary people, he sees things that the King in his throne room cannot. Donald discovers that something is brewing and it’s not what the King thinks it is. Will he listen to Donald though?
Donald is a delightful character who grows as the book progresses, and his two companions are equally as endearing in their own way. I love the way his guide nurture’s Donald’s development, knowing when to step in and when to back off. He is the archetypal father to Donald’s fool. The generous, always hungry and not very smart sidekick is reminiscent of the zanni characters from the Commedia del arte.
This is a well written book with a point beneath the humour. Greed is a great motivator, religion can become a method of indoctrination, rumour and mistrust can create wars, and fear and ignorance are a lethal combination.
This book looks deceptively simple, but there is a lot more to it than first meets the eye. It’s a skilfully executed work by a talented author with a unique voice. I recommend it to all who enjoy parody of either the fantasy or political kind. Perfect for cynics.
Reviewed by Katt Pemble
I don’t really know what to say after finishing The Journeyman… my mind is still whirring around putting things together, rehashing scenes from the start that held hidden meanings that only revealed themselves after you’ve finished the book.
My first thought was around how instantly engaging and interesting the story was, even though it began as a slice-of-life type of story. The first few chapters welcomed the reader into Paul’s world, showed a young man who had struggled through life, had been beaten to the curb time and time again.
Annie and Zach also added to the delightfully well-constructed characters. I especially liked that they were both a bit different from the traditional characters. Zach appeared to be on the spectrum, while Annie is a strong minded, single mother, data analyst and injured war veteran.
Brilliantly different and yet, someone that just about anyone could relate to on some level.
The idea of a purgatory or interim afterlife has been done before, but not with this sort of fantastical element. When the book changes from slice-of-life to The Commons the whole world is turned on its head. This left me a little lost as to what was happening, and while a little disorienting, the fast pace meant you really couldn’t stay focused on that for too long.
This will either encourage the reader to just ‘go with it’ or potentially put them off completely (which is what I’ve seen in a couple of the other reviews). For me, the unanswered questions around what was happening and who all the new people were, was more intriguing than annoying. But I can completely understand how some people would get ‘over it’ quickly.
My biggest criticism, and probably the only one really, is to do with the pace of the book. The action starts at chapter 5, and it does not stop until you read the last line of the book. Now, at times, this works brilliantly. The epic battles and racing through dark tunnels was fantastic at a frantic pace, but normally as a reader you need some slower parts. Parts that allow you to digest what has happened and to form intricate and emotional bonds with the characters; It’s a part that was almost missed because of the frantic pace.
The emotional impact of one of the pivotal sad moments in the story was a mere molehill to me because of my lack of emotional attachment to the characters. The reaction that should have occurred was nowhere to be seen because my level of emotional commitment to the character was still in its infancy. Had there been a few softer, quieter moments with this character, ones to forge emotional bonds with, then I’d probably have been crying like a baby at that climatic scene. I wanted to, I really did.
Are you crying?
This isn’t to say that Michael can’t make the reader care about the characters, because he does. I really felt for little Zach and felt my heart lurch along with Annie’s as she worked her way through the puzzles along her journey, but these scenes were about characters that’d been with me the whole way through the book. I knew something of them, I wanted to read more about them and experience things with them.
When it comes to antagonists, Michael really shone. Mr Brill was insidious in his evilness and yet, still not out and out creepy. There was an intelligence about him and a polished exterior that was somewhat misleading. I also liked his little side-kick Gerald Truitt, he was an interesting character. I can see bigger things for him too.
All in all, this is a fantastic book. One that is well written, flawlessly edited and thoroughly engaging. If you want to try something that’ll get your imagination flowing, pick this book up today, you will not be disappointed.
**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review***
Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor
February 20, 2015
A Tale of Adventure & Disaster in a Dystopian Future
When he was five, Conall Hawkins and his brother, Faro, who was five years older, were left by their parents in the little village of Lerwick on Shetland. Lerwick is a place that time has forgotten, and the world mostly passes by, until ten years later, when ‘The Arkady’ drops anchor and members of its crew come ashore. Conall and Faro meet Jonah Argent, Arkady’s bearlike first mate, and immediately hatch a plan to stowaway on the vessel to go in search of their missing parents.
In the Wreckage by Simon J. Townley is a tale of two brothers on a quest.
The plot is epic, even though it only covers a short period from the time Conall is fifteen. The author paints a vivid picture of the world after the disastrous effects of climate change has divided humanities survivors into small collections of people clinging precariously to islands of habitable terrain. Some, however, have taken to preying on others, and Conall and Jonah fall into the clutches of such a group as he and his brother get closer and closer to finding out what happened to their mother and father.
This is a hard book to categorize. It is part dystopian science fiction, part adventure, part coming of age, with a large dollop of both past history and future prediction thrown in for good measure. A wide variety of characters swirl around, and dip in and out of the brothers’ lives as they press further north in their search. While the main plot is their search for their parents, there are a number of subplots to keep a reader diverted and entertained, as well as the tension between the brothers which is resolved in a surprising twist at the end.
The author’s handling of dialogue of characters from different linguistic groups is masterful. You are shown the differences without having to interpret nonstandard spelling or grammar, making it easy to keep so many characters separate in your mind. The tension builds slowly in this book, but once it reaches a certain point, it shoots up like a rocket, and then gently deposits the reader at the impact point – the end – secure in the knowledge that he or she has been on a worthwhile journey.
I give In the Wreckage five stars. There are a few typos – maybe three or four – but, they do not in any detract from what is a fascinating read.