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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but needs focus, June 1, 2014
Pamela L Estes
This review is from: The Four Kings (Kindle Edition)
The opening chapter really gets your attention and sets the hook. Wizards instantly take over the United States and soon after dispose of almost every nuclear weapon in the world. The story is unpredictable – the wizards forcefully and illegally seized power, yet they did so without killing anyone and seem benevolent. Of course, they’re benevolent now, but they hold absolute power and proclaim they will for another three years. There is plenty of time for their power to corrupt them… but will it? I have degrees in social studies education and history, so it was interesting for me to see the references to political and economic theory, and the author has done due research into those topics.
There are some typographical errors, such as having the word “now” when it was obvious “not” was intended, and some formatting errors. There was an extra space between each paragraph and a blank page between each chapter. I’m an arms and armor geek, so I’ll notice an error like the phrase “semiautomatic machine guns,” which is an oxymoron. If a gun is semiautomatic, it’s not a machine gun.
My main issue is that there are a lot of resources that are never made full use of. Scott Spotson has some very good stuff here. It just needs a little focus and polishing, some loose ends tied up. If he does that, he’ll have a five star novel, easily. For example, when the wizards opened things up for debate with humans, some of the human debaters asked good questions and made good points. I thought some of those debaters would’ve made good foils for the wizards – perhaps some wizards could agree with the points the humans had made while other wizards wouldn’t, thus creating dissention within their ranks that the resistance movement could’ve exploited – but that never happened. The resistance movement was somewhat cartoonish. After seeing what the wizards can do, engaging them in open battle would obviously be suicide, yet that’s what the resistance does. And they get their clocks cleaned. Humans are nothing if not resourceful and adaptable. I kept expecting the resistance would find a weakness in the wizards and exploit it, but again, that doesn’t happen. The wizards mop the floor with them and that’s that.
There are also several inconsistencies. As the story progresses, we find out the wizards are human. One of them acted like he’d never seen a political cartoon before. This struck me as odd since the wizard was human and grew up in the human world. He should know what a political cartoon is. They welcomed debate, yet some of them got impatient rather quickly when human debaters asked difficult questions. I took this to be a crack in their benevolent façade, foreshadowing them becoming tyrants, but that never happened. So what was the point? To show the wizards are human? If so, what right did they have to seize power? If the author’s purpose was to raise that question, he never answers it. The wizards were supposed to be highly educated, yet their actions didn’t demonstrate that. At first they come off as good debaters, but their debating technique consisted almost entirely of quoting others. They didn’t seem to have many original arguments which, for people who are supposed to be skilled at debating, seemed a little inconsistent. They were surprised by criticism and resistance, yet someone well educated in history or political science would know that, no matter how well you lead or improve people’s lives, there will always be dissenters. This is a normal feature of any political or social landscape. Why do ostensibly well educated wizards seem to be completely ignorant of this? The wizards were very secretive about themselves and magic, something else I took as a sign of something sinister to come, but again, that didn’t happen. The wizards were totally oblivious to the idea that Amanda might be playing them for information that would be of use to the humans. How could people so powerful and intelligent and supposedly knowledgeable in politics overlook something so obvious? I thought perhaps this naiveté would be the weakness the humans would exploit but, like so many other things, this was never expanded, used or explained. Each wizard takes Amanda on a tour of a little slice of their personal lives so she, as the liason between the wizards and the humans, can learn more about them. In the case of Demus and Regi, it serves a purpose to the rest of the story. In the case of Indie and Justica, I don’t know why it was done. The scenes were interesting and well written, I just don’t see how they contributed anything to the plot. Justica did many things that left me scratching my head and wondering why. Her motives, like so much else in the story, are never really explained.
I found many of the characters difficult to relate to, the notable exception being Regi. Demus’ mercurial personality came across to me as, at best, bipolar, if not downright psychopathic, and I couldn’t sympathize with Amanda forgiving him. I liked Indie at first, but as the story progressed she went from being a strong female character to an ice queen. Towards the end of the book she attends Amanda’s wedding and is all smiles, something completely at odds with the cold, aloof, impatient person she had been throughout the rest of the book. Again, I was left scratching my head, wondering why this person who had been so cold for four hundred plus pages was suddenly so nice and expressive.
There is a huge amount of unused potential in this story. The flaws noted notwithstanding, the story flowed well. I wanted to know what happened. I read it in about four days. I would’ve finished it sooner if I didn’t have life rudely intruding! The author made me want to know what was going to happen. He kept my attention. The author did exceptionally well in his conceptions of the wizards’ world and Amanda’s forbidden tours through it. He did well placing the reader into the setting, and it’s obvious a great deal of thought went into it. He scored a bull’s eye in the fantasy writer’s goal of creating a new world and making it real for the reader. The opening chapter makes it sound like a political thriller, but then it becomes a fantasy tale and, as I’ve noted, does a very good job of setting the hook. On the one hand, nothing I expected to happen happened. The points I noticed didn’t turn out the way I anticipated, and no one wants a story that’s predictable. On the other hand, they didn’t really turn out at all. It wasn’t, “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming!” It was more like, “Well, okay, so why did this happen?” That’s the major issue. That and I think the author has a rosier outlook than I do – I think if a small number of people seize power, they will be corrupted, if they weren’t corrupt to begin with. Scott Spotson has some very good stuff here. It just needs a little focus and polishing, some loose ends tied up. If he does that, he’ll have a five star novel, easily.