Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fantasy Kingdom XXI (Lisa Anne Nisula)

When I first saw the title, as well as the cover, my mind immediately flew towards Final Fantasy role-playing games. As it turns out, I wasn't far off the mark!

  • Overall: 2.9 ҉
  • Plot: 4/5
  • Originality: 3/5
  • Language: 2/5
  • Believability: 2.5/5
As a veteran gamer, I find that this novel plays out very much like your standard RPG. There is the hapless hero, the female fighter, the alpha male, the "fool", and a magical creature; all that is missing is the damsel in distress. The plot involves a series of tasks, with each one prompting the next as the protagonist attempts to reach his ultimate goal. He accomplishes that which is laid before him through a combination of skill and serendipity, along with the guidance from his party. In short, this is what a video game would look like if it were written out.

With that being said, Nisula manages to sidestep the temptation of making her characters one-dimensional. What I liked about them was that they each had distinct personalities outside of their official roles. For instance, as a pixie, Bobble was flighty and fretted a great deal, but he was also brave and rose to the occasion as necessary. Another example can be found in the knight and the bard. The internal conflicts in Amertious and Phichorian become evident over time, making them feel like actual people and not human tools for Charles to utilize in his quest.

Unfortunately, by matching the speed in which RPG story lines develop, the book loses some of its credibility. Events that should take days, weeks, or months to occur are over and done with in a matter of hours. The short travel distances and easy resolution of complications take away from that sense of a long journey; from what I can tell, the entire novel occurs over the span of two weeks, which is far too short for all of the things that the characters have to do. The book would benefit from slowing down and letting internal and external conflicts gradually develop and reveal themselves during the large amount of time spent on the road.

This book is written at the level of young adult fiction, however, so the speed might appeal to a generation that is notorious for its short attention span. There are several passages that are rather well written, allowing me to get lost in the story as it unfurled. What typically brought me back to reality was the overuse of the characters' names. There are many instances in which the use of a pronoun or an epithet would add some variety, as the reader is already aware of the subject of the sentence. Also distracting was the abundance of run-on sentences, misused semicolons, and sentences that were confusing because they shifted subjects halfway through or attempted to address too many things at once.

As an added aside, the formatting for this e-book is fantastic! The text flowed smoothly with proper indentation, there was a functional table of contents, the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter kept with the feel of the overall product, and the centered asterisks alleviated one of my major pet peeves.

In the end, my inner gamer had a good time with this story. My inner reader wishes that it had all been more spread out.

(Review copy provided by the author)

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