Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Book Review: Rune of the Apprentice by Jamison Stone

I met Jamison Stone at Balticon a few months ago. He was selling his book, Rune of the Apprentice, and describing the world and behind it. He also gave me an early version of one of the maps in exchange for a book review. Now, I always review books I read (see: the rest of this blog), so I pretty much got the map for free and that's nice. Stone did warn me this was his first book, so I kept that in mind. While it's clearly not a Sanderson or Rothfuss bestseller and it has some flaws, the book is nevertheless surprisingly good for a first-time author.

Read on for my full, spoiler-free review.

Overall Impression
For a first-time book, this was pretty decent. The setting is intriguing and Stone does a good job of teasing out details of the world making you want more. The plot is slow at first and has it quirks, but the pace picks up speed as the story progresses. The characters are probably the weakest point in the book. While the secondary characters are top notch, the main character, Aleksi, drags the story somewhat- you end up cheering for the secondary characters and wanting to know what happens to them rather than Aleksi!

This novel starts a bit sluggish. The author has a tendency to overuse adjectives and adverbs, which detracts from the pace of the story. It's not bad to use them, but you can only have so many majestic temples, glorious arches, raging fires, harmonious music, until you get tired. Another drawback is that the relative lack of characters at the start (mainly only Aleksi) means you don't have much dialog or interaction, instead getting lots of info-dumps. However, if you bear through that you'll be rewarded once you start meeting some of the other characters. The action really picks up and I, at least, started reading the book faster and faster. The ending is explosive and leaves behind some moderate cliffhangers that do well to motivate the next part of the series.

The book's pace really quickens once you are on the pirate ship. It's incredible how much better the story is at that stage compared with its start. I kept coming back to it and reading it on both my morning and afternoon commute, just barely managing to avoid missing my bus stop. It's clear the author has done at lot of research as well, as the descriptions of all the ship parts and the sailing in general felt very really to my (inexperienced) eyes.

The novel follows the story of Aleksi, a young man with a mysterious past who flees the Academy when a Rune on his hand starts to awaken. Unfortunately, as a main character Aleksi falls short. It's not clear what his motivation is, beyond just staying alive. His backstory is hidden to make it interesting, but this works against it. He's also a bit too skilled at everything he does. Now the author does shine a light on it, having other characters remark and joke about it, but it still feels shallow. In contrast, some of the secondary characters are absolutely excellent. Chief among them is Domadred, the pirate captain. He has a clear motivation and lots of opportunities to flesh out his personality. His crew is likewise filled with pretty good secondary characters. General Beck and the nobleman Luka are also well characterized so clearly the Stone can write good characters, he just needs to let up on Aleksi.

I feel that a significant improvement may have been done by splitting Aleksi into multiple characters. Now, that clearly wouldn't work for present state of the story, but it would allow for more interactions, especially at the crucial start of the novel, as well as spreading out the youth's talents and making giving him/them a more unique personality. As it stands, the beginning of the book is full of just Aleksi walking around and thinking, oscillating between extremely knowledgable and gifted and very naive and inexperienced. There's also a bit of a love story going on with Aleksi, but while it's introduced early enough, it's executed in such an odd fashion that it feels shallow and unbelievable. I felt the characters really needed to have grown together a lot more before they start declaring undying love.

Setting / World Building
The world of Terra is an interesting place. While the start of the novel has plenty of descriptions of Mindra's Haven and some of the politics between the various nations, what's left unsaid is what's really interesting to me. The world has a series of very tall mountains called Zeniths. It has, as far as I understand, no Sun- the Zeniths provide all the light for the world. It pleasantly reminded me of some of the mythology behind Tolkien's Middle-earth. The history of Middle-earth had, at one point, two lamps providing light to the world. Exactly how the Zeniths work, or the moons, are left as mysteries for now. Later on in the book, Stone manages to tease out details of the greater part of the world without overwhelming the reader. For example, I was intrigued by the crater lake and its unique inhabitants as well as the nature of the ocean in the center of the world.

Despite Aleksi coming from an Academy (which to my understanding teaches magic, or runes), there's very little description of exactly what Runes are and how they are used. There's certainly plenty of tantalizing tidbits, though. While I would have liked a bit more detail, I'm satisfied with what I saw, especially after talking to the author himself. The stage is set for the second book to delve into more descriptions of the Runes.

Final Thoughts
While I generally read established authors, I'm not averse to giving new authors a try. The book is far from perfect, but does a decent job at telling an interesting story. The setting, which is usually what I value most, is quite cool and I want to learn more about Terra, Runes, and all the strange things of this world. Plot-wise the book has some quirks and could use some improvements, but nevertheless manages to pick up a good pace as the story progresses. The secondary characters are great and help bring the story to life. Unfortunately, the main character is a bit shallow which detracts from the novel given that there is such a strong focus on him. The series is worth a try, but bear in mind that as a first-time author, it could be improved on.

1 comment:

  1. Hey David! Jamison Stone here! So glad you enjoyed Rune of the Apprentice! We have a prequel out called The Last Amazon and were wondering if you wanted to run a preview/interview about it on your blog. Let me know! More info can be found here and you can reach me at