Indiana high school senior James Madison Young falls asleep while studying at the library. He wakes to find himself in another world, filled with magic, danger and romance. He has been summoned by court wizard Maynard to be the king of Kalymbria. Forced into marriage with the beautiful and magically powerful yet untrained Julia Roper for his queen, he must restore the lapsed Constitution in the face of opposition from a hostile Council of Advisors, and defend his new country from the evil machinations of the wizard Ruinga and her allied kingdom of Venicka. Rediscovering the lost art of enchantment may provide him with a powerful edge in his quest, if he can survive the assassins and conspiracies arrayed against him.
I received this book from the author for an honest review.
I don’t like giving low or upsetting reviews and I really wanted to like this book. However, I didn’t. It wasn’t because of the Christian YA Fantasy genre and it wasn’t the politics. It was the writing that pulled me away. Let me start with what I disliked and then go into what I did like.
The first thing that pulled me away was the way the book was written. The dialogue had no indications as to who was talking when. There were times I was confused to who was talking and had to guess by using the context clues. A good way to describe it is like this (not direct quotes):
I looked at her.
“Surely, you like yourself.”
“Not really. There’s only so much to like. I am plain, unhappy, and my stomach does this strange thing when I drink milk.”
“Maybe you’re just lactose intolerant. My mother is lactose intolerant. It’s very uncomfortable for her when we want to go to Dairy Queen.”
Do you see what I mean? Sure, this is easy to figure out who is talking, but in the context of the book, not so much. It also makes knowing how the characters are feeling during their conversations difficult. The lack of indicators prevented me from seeing the characters in action and their emotions. They came across as monotone which in turn made the story feel very boring.
I also didn’t care for the lack of character development. The main character and narrator, Jim, seems to have a solid base or at least some basic knowledge about all sorts of things. He isn’t a typical teenager let alone a typical teenage boy. He knows Krav Maga, he has Kindle books on inventions and how to make an electrical source for charging his devices, he has political books in his Kindle… he even has a roll (granted a single roll) of toilet paper. I wish there were more issues about him emotionally or freaking out. He took being King to another world very well. Though he did miss his family, I didn’t see it. There were no tears being shed at night or emotional outbursts of wanting his mommy (which I know I would have done).
From these alone, I didn’t like the book. I was bored. For me, the book felt like a first or second draft. There could have been more imagery. What made this world different from ours aside from the politics? What are the animals like? Little things like that make a world believable. The cultures seemed pretty basic and something from a textbook. There wasn’t something that grabbed me about their uniqueness.
That said, there were things I liked.
I love politics in books. I find them intriguing and a great format for causing conflict. Neuendorf does do that in this book. The politics are all about corruption. Another thing I found interesting is the direct comparison to the American government today. The Council of Advisors instantly made me think of Congress today. Basically, the Kalymbrian king is appointed (like the POTUS). The Council (our Congress) have a hereditary ascension. Yes, Congress does not have that, however it is difficult for a Congress member to leave unless the people vote for the opposing person. There is no time limit to their office position.
I don’t know if Neuendorf planned that, but I found it clever. I also found Jim’s reasonings to be clever. Even if I also feel that it doesn’t reflect a typical teenager. Again, I just wish there was more development about him to help me believe that.
The one thing I was really worried about was the Christian outlook to the book. I’m not Christian. In fact, I am what I consider a Gnostic Pagan. I believe in the teachings and a God, just that I don’t believe Christ was God. I believe he was a person and a person cannot be God. I also have nature based Pagan beliefs. As you can imagine, I was worried.
I had nothing to worry about. Though Christ is an important figure to Jim, his morals and beliefs being important motivators, he wasn’t one to instantly try conversion. Yes, he had some moments of verbal diaherra, but I took that as a modern person’s viewpoints in a medieval world. Even I would have said that the people were backwards. The Christianity in the book is not a direct conversion. Neuendorf isn’t trying to convert in his book. He is trying to show a world and give a solution through a knowledgeable character and their personal beliefs.
I was by no means offended or scared into a belief system I don’t follow. For that, the book is open minded and I do say that if you can work past what I disliked and you aren’t Christian, this is still a fantasy you could read. In fact, I wouldn’t mind trying again if Neuendorf decided to revisit his work and expanded on it. It has great potential. It’s just that right now, I don’t care for it and I don’t feel it is a completed piece.