Bret James Stewart's Reviews > The Labyrinth Wall

The Labyrinth Wall by Emilyann Allen
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it was amazing

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Labyrinth Wall is Emilyann Girdner’s first book of the Obsidian series. She is off to a wonderful start. In this dark fantasy, dystopian world and its bleak setting, Girdner has written a novel of hope, cooperation, friendship, and the indomitable power of the human spirit.

First of all, I would like to start with the physical characteristics of the book. The cover artwork is great: it is a drab sort of brown colour that fits well with the overall ethos of the book. It features a labyrinth design overlaid with a symbol that is worn by some of the antagonists in the novel, which I believe indicates a power of containment over those within. The book is laid out nicely, easy on the eyes, and is virtually error-free, which demonstrates the care and concern Mrs. Girdner has lavished on her book. This is the way all books should be published, but this is sadly not the reality, thus the book stands out in the contemporary market. In addition to the book, Girdner has a website supporting the book and series, with the same theme/design and care she has given to the novel. She is preparing well for the future, and I would not at all be surprised to see a well-developed world and accompanying fan base for the Obsidian series down the road. I feel I have discovered a nascent star on the verge of bursting onto the scene of YA/Fantasy. Many times, as I was reading, I kept thinking how cool it would be to have a role-playing game based on the novel and setting.

Bound in the Labyrinth, the Mahks serve as slaves for the Creator overlords who, via a mysterious, probably magical process, made them to obtain obsidian. The Mahks and Creators are human, but there are a number of mysteries that are not spelled out, such as exactly how the creation process works and why the Creators want obsidian. They are oppressive, live in luxury while their creations are literally starving, and keep the Mahk enslaved within the massive walls of their prison. The overall feel of the book is a mix of Dungeons and Dragons (minus elves and dwarves, so far) and The Hunger Games. Magic exists, and it seems to be set in the default medieval fantasy timeframe.

The story follows Araina, a girl on the cusp of womanhood, and her quest to escape the Labyrinth. I don’t want to go through the plot and give that away, so I’ll stick to the setting and characters. She is alone except for her pet bird, Blue, who is large enough to ride but is unable to fly high enough to escape the Labyrinth. This makes no sense to me. I understand that being able to just fly over the wall makes for a very simplistic plot and short book, but I do wish this had been adequately explained. I think Girdner implies the bird cannot fly over carrying Araina due to the extra weight, but then the question begged is why does not Blue fly over and escape on her own? Or go back and forth between the outside and the interior? For a while, I thought Blue was a gryphon, but all the characters refer to her as a bird throughout the novel, so I guess she is a bird.

As Araina comes to realize there is something beyond the walls of the Labyrinth, she seeks to escape. She meets friends and enemies along the way that are somewhat typical fantasy fare: the smirking good/bad boy who will probably end up being the love interest, the white-clad folk hero, the master swordsman, a bevy of questers who come in various shades of good, and the evil villains. The book does not suffer for all its common tropes. The characters are interesting and seem realistic, the story is emotive right from the start, and not all the good guys survive. One of my pet peeves is the book wherein the protagonists are repeatedly faced with nearly insurmountable odds and survive with everyone intact. I am not looking for a massacre of the good guys or anything, but the death of one or more adds to the sense of danger and realism.

Once you read this book, you’ll be wanting more, and more is on the way. Girdner is hard at work on the second book already. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA, dystopian-apocalyptic, fantasy, quest tales, adventure, a well-detailed setting with lots of mysterious places to explore, a book about survival in a holocaust-like world, or any mixture thereof. I will be waiting for the sequel, and I think you will be, too.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 20, 2014 – Shelved

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