Phillip Stephens's Reviews > Awakening

Awakening by Raymond Bolton
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it was amazing
bookshelves: diversion

If anyone actually sat down to create a formula certain to sell a fantasy novel I imagined it to be Raymond Bolton after reading Awakening, the first book in his Ydron Saga. Take the standard potion of swords and sorcery, the traditional displaced prince looking to regain his throne, his band of loyal cohorts and mix in alien body snatchers, mind control, a plot to overthrow the planet and the occasional Shakespearean theme and the pot spills over with Awakening.

Surprisingly, it works.

Let me admit, I grew weary of fantasy fiction a couple of years into college. The books became too derivative and, unlike crime fiction and some of the more innovative science fiction, rarely strayed from the formula. The authors seemed more interested in creating trilogies, then five and six book series, than breaking genuine territory. I had a hard time explaining to fans, but substituting weredragons for ogretrolls and changing the hero's talisman from a sacred gemstone to a mystic runestone isn't breaking new territory. Nor was creating new names for trees and wine, or new species of cattle and avian creatures, or adding moons and suns all that creative. It didn't even matter if the hero/heroine ultimately faced the Snake Queen or White Wolf Warlock. To me it was just plugging new values into x, y and z.

I do go back every few years, pick up a highly recommended title to give it a chance, but with the rare exception of a book like William Browning Spencer's Zod Wallop, I put it down halfway through and wait for the genre to catch my interest.

When Prince Regilius goes on the run and discovers that outside the palace his kingdom is poverty stricken and his subjects hate his family, Bolton takes the novel in a direction many fantasy books fails to go. The readers quickly discover that the throne isn't lost simply because of a plot against his family, but because his family has given up the right to rule through negligence, malfeasance and greed.

Awakening recounts the battle of Prince Regilius and his sister Lilith on three fronts. First, their father is murdered in a coup engineered by their mother Morged. Second they must learn to fight off an alien force called the Dalthin that can control people's bodies minds. Finally, Regilius learns that his father's corruption was so extensive the kingdom could collapse from rebellion. As their mother gains power and influence, she threatens to gather an army using his father's former allies to crush Regilius' kingdom from the outside.

Before Morged can execute her coup, Regilius and Lilith slip her noose and take separate paths to escape her wrath. Neither realizes until later that the the coup is the key battleground between two alien races—the Dalthain, who want to breed a new food source, and a benefactor race who want the planet to evolve. The benefactors modified Rigilius' and Lilith's genomes to allow them to develop the same mind control abilities as the Dalthains and now they must train themselves mentally as well as physically for the upcoming battle.

Bolton manages to create a new world for an epic scale battle without losing track of the personal stories of the combatants. His prose can be wooden at times, but the story never loses the readers' interest. Nor does he lose the reader in the complexity of plot tangles.

Even readers who steer away from fantasy fiction as redundant and formulaic, and I tend to be one of them, should give Awakening a shot. I can't promise you'll like it, but I was surprised to see someone do so much with what I consider a spent genre.

Phillip T. Stephens is the author of Cigerets, Guns & Beer and Raising Hell. You can follow him @stephens_pt.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 9, 2015 – Finished Reading
June 1, 2015 – Shelved
June 1, 2015 – Shelved as: diversion

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