Enden, David Kummer

Enden, David Kummer

Enden: A Dark Fantasy Novel

Enden is a young-adult fantasy adventure, with its protagonist, Jonathan, a farmer’s son from a remote settlement with a talent for archery. In the aftermath of a barbarian raid on his village, Jonathan attracts the attention of the king’s grandson.

It’s a tradition of the YA genre that the rebellious but otherwise unremarkable teen rises to prominence through luck and coincidence, and Jonathan certainly fits the bill. However, the character failed to gain my sympathy; Jonathan gave me the impression of an entitled pain in the rear for most of the book, more concerned with how everything affects him than anything else that’s going on around him. I do grant that this is a stereotypical teenaged attitude, but it switched me off the character, which is a bit of an issue with a protagonist. Ideally, even an anti-hero should have something that draws a reader in, even if only horrified fascination.

The other thing that made it difficult for me to really get into this book was plausibility. The populations are small enough that gossip about one boy picked up under odd circumstances by a prominent knight can spread fast and far, but there is enough of a population for an enemy army of 100,000 or more to be gathered, trained, and equipped, and not least, supplied as they travel across the kingdom fighting. Horses were able to travel at a gallop almost indefinitely. Items like that kept pulling me out of the story.

For me, this book had some undoubted strong points, not least the fact that the text was thoroughly and competently copy-edited, but the story as a whole didn’t enthrall me.

Devils of Black and Gold, F.A.R.

Devils of Black and Gold, F.A.R.

Devils of Black and Gold

A tale of devils and monsters and high-school heroes, F.A.R.’s Devils of Black and Gold introduces us to Lucas, the class loner, and Brian, his best friend, as Lucas struggles for control in the face of the impossible: he believes he’s become a werewolf. Dealing with shape-shifts he can’t always control, and increasingly wild mood-swings, Lucas is afraid that he’s a danger to all that he holds dear, including his best friend. Brian’s complete faith in his friend becomes Lucas’s only point of reference for faith in himself, and that’s before they find out about the string of gruesome murders that the police are calling the Beast Attacks – brutally mangled corpses that have no apparent connection.

Devils of Black and Gold is a fast-paced urban fantasy novella offering an eclectic mix of shape-shifters, possession, and a crime thriller that doesn’t let up on the tension. F.A.R. writes convincingly from the teenage viewpoint of the characters, contrasting them with a surprisingly intuitive and flexible authority figure in the form of Eliot Guthrie, a homicide detective on the local police force. The action is set against an economically evoked background of school, parents, and high-school tensions, carefully hidden from the attention of parents and teachers. A worth-while read for fans of urban fantasy and YA.

Descendant, Jeffrey A Levin

Descendant, Jeffrey A Levin

Descendant

Jeffrey Levin’s Descendant is a YA sci-fi story, set in the 24th century and centred around Michael Eisenstein, the youngest member of a family employed and cosseted by the US government for generations due to their ability to develop bigger, better, and more lethal toys.

Structurally, the story appears to follow Michael’s train of thought, with a tight, first-person focus, and a conversational style of prose. While the ambling, random track the story takes is an effective representation of the average person’s stream of consciousness and idiosyncratic observational skills, I found that as a reader it made the story a little incoherent in some areas. Because of those personal asides and sometimes abrupt switches from minute detail to broad description, staying absorbed in the book was a challenge for me. Major plot items also enter and exit the story’s stage with a seeming lack of announcement, with important figures introduced three-quarters of the way in and key antagonists removed from the field with very little fanfare or input from our hero.

I felt that the book had a number of strong points in its basic plot, and the underlying idea promises an interesting story, but it needed a little more work on breaking out the story elements, refining the track of the plot and the pacing,, and eliminating some of the unnecessary pieces to allow those strengths to be recognised.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books.

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Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, Philip Dodd

Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, Philip Dodd

Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle

Philip Dodd’s Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle is set on the world of Ankor, not too far from Earth as it turns out, where the race known as turkles live. Amongst the turkles, inventors are rare and respected members of society, inventing all sorts of useful things like wheels and pencil sharpeners. Klubbe, having started life as a hermit turkle, was surprised one day by an encounter with a globb fish, which overturned his life view and gave him an idea. Staring up at the sky, Klubbe realised that he wanted to explore the oceans of sky above him, and the idea of a flying coracle came to him. His desire to make his idea real made him realise that his life’s aim was to be an inventor: the inventor of the first flying craft.

Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle is an enchanting story, light-hearted and following Klubbe through his adventures as an inventor, wherein he meets many helpful and curious turkles, and even becomes close with the royal family of Ankor through his inventions. Philip Dodd perfectly evokes the simple, ordered rhythm of unhurried turkle life, the importance of food and friends, and the simple and optimistic outlook of a turkle. Anyone who loves Tolkien’s hobbits will find themselves drawn to turkle society, not to mention turkle food and architecture. A highly-recommended read, ideal for younger science-fiction fans.

Murder at the Space Hotel, Mehmet Ali Yazan

Murder at the Space Hotel, Mehmet Ali Yazan

Murder at the Space Hotel

I have to be honest, and admit that I found this book to be very two-dimensional, both in the characters of the story and the story itself, and the writing came across as clunky enough to get continually in the way of the read.

The plot is set up as a locked-room mystery; a businessman was murdered while staying at a high-tech orbital hotel, and neither murderer nor murder weapon is immediately apparent. Detective Herry ‘Chief’ Mortimer and his side-kick, Scott Yvensen, are dispatched to unravel the mystery. Happily for them, all the suspects are happy to answer their questions, of which our heroes only need to ask one or two to immediately ascertain that their interviewee is not guilty.

Murder at the Space Hotel has, at its root, an interesting basis – software ethics. It’s the sort of heatedly argued debate that’s currently in vogue almost whenever topics such as self-driving cars come up, along the lines of whether it’s more socially acceptable for the car’s programming  to squash one woman and her baby, or cause a multiple-car pileup avoiding her. However, the bulk of the story completely bypasses any introduction to the question, allowing it to announce itself out of nowhere towards the end of the book. Between that and the lack of development in the story elements, I didn’t find that this book managed to capture my interest.