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  • 1 person found this review helpful

    1 people found this review helpful

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    Why did I like it so much?

    I usually ask myself that question after really enjoying a book or movie. As an engineer and manager, I spend a lot of time in the real world, so when I’m especially taken with a work of fiction it often provides an insight to examine it to better understand how and why it grabbed me. So, as an engineer, I'm going to briefly break down this adventure fantasy by a relatively unknown author and try to understand what just happened. For me, anyway, the most useful method is to examine plot, characters, and dialogue, and try to see why they work (or not) and how they work together. So, starting with the plot, it kind of fits into the boy-meets-girl thing, but it gets past that right away. After a short prologue involving a group of divine beings called the Guardians discussing past events in the land of Faelondul, we meet a beautiful human woman named Brahanu who is horrified to find herself lost near Nazil. Nazil is the capital city of a cruel and arrogantly xenophobic race whose ruler, the Zaxson, is a particularly unpleasant fellow who extracts tribute from the human villages while enslaving and abusing many. Brahanu has the very good fortune of being discovered by Pentanimir. He is First Chosen of the elite palace guards, whose motto is “Honor Above All.” Pentanimir is smitten by Brahanu. Torn between duty and love, he makes the difficult choice to escort the injured girl to safety rather than taking her prisoner. The plot moves from Brahanu's flight to scenes inside the citadel of the city, where we encounter some of the human slaves, and start to learn of the cruel ways of the Nazilians. The plot continues to advance between Brahanu and Pentanimir's adventures and some epic love-making along the way – and developments in the city and in Cazaal, Brahanu's village. The author deftly introduces a number of intriguing characters through the unpredictable plot turns: the evil uncle Oxilon, the sadistic Zaxson with his son and daughter, and Brahanu's family in Cazaal and her betrothed, Itai. As Pentanimir and Brahanu journey together, he begins to experience doubts regarding Nazil and what he has taken for granted about humans and Nazilians. The human and the First Chosen fall deeply in love and although they reach the mysterious village of Bandari and meet even more fascinating and inter-related characters, they find they must make the difficult choice to separate in order to … well; I don't want to spoil it for other readers. By the time I got this far in the story I was hooked. The plot pulled me rapidly through a very exciting battle with the Guardians and Nazilians, and a final climactic attack on the citadel itself. There were places in the story where I literally had to stop for a moment and catch my breath. In short, the plot has at least a little of just about everything that makes for a good story: love, courage, adventure, betrayal, battles, and struggles with honor and duty and virtue. It's all tied together with unpredictable twists and turns that really kept me turning pages. Characters: Aaron Michael Hall has written a story that almost compares to some of Charles Dickens' novels in terms of the number of characters and the extent to which they are inter-related. In this sense, the plot and characters work together very well: the plot's twists and turns reveal not only the characters themselves but surprising connections among them. In addition, just as in the best of Tolkien, some of the characters are not human at all. We meet giants in exile, and have to rejoice with them when they overcome their ancient failures in serving the Guardians. In a flashback, we meet Pentanimir's father Manifir and learn more about Nazil and its gods and culture as well as a greater understanding of what motivates the First Chosen. We experience the selfless, heroic love of Itai for Brahanu. In all, the characters are revealed as very human and believable, all with failings and weaknesses, most with virtue and interesting personalities. I found myself connecting with almost all of the good guys at different times in the story, and getting downright angry at some of the more evil ones. It took me a little while to get used to the dialogue. Hall uses some unusual constructions and speaking styles to set Faelondul apart from our world. For example, there are no contractions in the dialogue. Once I accepted this as being consistent with the fantasy world the author was creating, I found it very natural and enjoyable. The way the characters speak often provides very good insights into their natures. Hall often employs a very unique usage which I found fascinating. The author has a powerful style of writing and the story was consistent and well-edited throughout. It was a fast, fun read and I'm looking forward to more installments from Aaron Michael Hall.

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