Over the past few months, I’ve become more and more confident when it comes to indie books. I’ve found some really stellar authors, people who clearly deserve success and ought to be respected for their writing. People who have obviously invested time and energy into their creations and have brought worlds compellingly to life. I’ve become less and less dubious every time I open an indie book, and I’m happy to say that my confidence only grew as I turned the pages of THE RISING WIND by Ken Floro, III.
THE RISING WIND is set in the fantastical world of Avorath. As those who read my reviews may know, I’m a fan of alternate universes, whether fantastical, futuristic, or simply different somehow from our own (the HIS DARK MATERIALS series is a great example). Avorath is no exception. I found myself fascinated by the history of the world, from the history of the Steelvaeran Empire to the more subtle dark magic littered throughout the book; from the mythology of the Ageless and the deities to the bizarre monsters that inhabit the world. There is powerful magic and dark history hidden in the dim corners of Avorath.
The book is narrated from several different perspectives: Marcavius Maxiumus (name sound familiar? Perhaps a bit like a certain GLADIATOR we all know?) is the young, overconfident, and boastful Steelvaeran warrior, freshly graduated and eager to prove his chops – to himself, to his cousin, and to the young lady of the ship, Adrianna. Adrianna, another narrator, provides the sole female perspective. Unbeknownst to Marc, she is promised to him in marriage once they land safely at their destination and disembark from the Rising Wind. Finally, we follow Din, a mysterious character whose identity is never truly made clear, but who comes from a foreign city and holds a grudge against the Steelvaerans. Occasionally, we follow Marc’s cousin, Monty, though it’s clear that Marc is the primary protagonist of the two.
My two biggest problems with the book may have become evident already. The first I’ll discuss here: There were simply too many similarities to the Roman Empire and the world we know historically for me to feel truly immersed in this “fantastical” world. I eventually began to wonder why the author hadn’t simply chosen to set the book in an alternate version of Roman history, replete with necromancy, living Gods, and otherworldly monsters. The similarities, to a student of history, were overwhelming. From the Mennadrian Sea (Mediterranean) to the Island of Delos (a mythological place in our world) to the city of Namascus (Damascus), to Lord Thunder, the King of Storms (Zeus/Jupiter). In fact, if you want a general primer on life during the peak of the Roman Empire, this might be a good book to start with. I’ll not bore my readers with endless details, but the comparisons go on, and eventually I began to tire of the endless too-close-for-comfort similarities.
But maybe that’s just the history devotee in me speaking. Some might find these comparisons delightful or interesting, especially given that the rest of the book was fantastic. The plot was riveting, the language stellar, and the action heightened over and over again until I wanted to scream. (In a good way.) Floro is a master of pacing and building tension, and the pressure builds and carries from the first page through to the very last.
Don’t come into this book looking for too much philosophical thought or complex musings on the human character. You won’t find that. The plot doesn’t dilly-dally attempting to address deep questions or to delve into the essence of humanity. Instead you’ll find a fast-paced read flush with swashbuckling, vibrant language, and Pirates of the Carribean style debauchery. In fact, the Pirates comparison is quite a good one – from the noble-hearted sailors from the mainland and unsavory navigators (Captain Sparrow, anyone?) to drunken adventures and island savages, the two share a similar drive and charisma. What a ride!
My only other complaint with the book is with the way that women are handled. I don’t want to give anything away, but the only female character blunders her way through the book, making constant mistakes and finding herself in danger of losing her purity at least once. Each time the damsel in distress is rescued by the powerful figure of her husband-to-be (who still doesn’t know that she’s his fiancee, let alone that his parents have been playing matchmaker), who eventually wins her as the prize for his valiant efforts. It’s a story that plays into classic ‘helpless female’ archetypes, and I’ll admit to being a little frustrated that the chivalrous male rescues useless, pretty female storyline once again won the day.
That said, however, it didn’t cut from my enjoyment of the book. Adrianna, for better or worse, plays a small enough role in the story that it’s easy to get swept away by the adventures of the rest. Din, especially, is a fascinating and complex character – much more interesting to me than the protagonist Marcavius – and I can’t wait to hear more about both him and Balthazar, the errant navigator. I’ll be picking up the next book in the series as soon as I’m able (my reading list at this point is miles long) and I freely admit that I can’t wait to see what happens next in the world of Avorath.
I’d give this rollercoaster read four stars on the credit of writing and story arc, but the female stereotyping and the historian in me have compelled me to settle with 3.5. Heartily recommended for fans of fantasy, adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean, D&D, and general swashbuckling. You can get it on your Kindle by clicking here.
Roman-inspired fantasy that isn’t really alternate Roman history? Hey, I resemble that remark!
Of course I’m a sucker for anything vaguely Roman, so I may have to check this out.
Well I’m super stoked to dig into yours (it’s coming up, I promise!) and explore all that roman-inspired history in your novel as well 🙂
I’ve actually noticed an upswing in the amount of Roman-inspired stuff lately (or maybe it’s just me becoming more aware of the market). It makes me happy…and, really, I hope it opens the door for more historical fiction/fantasy set in the ancient world (and not just in the usual places–Rome, Greece, Egypt, etc.) Historical stuff that just retreads the same 3-4 Eurocentric time periods is a pet peeve of mine. 🙂
Yeah, I have a burning desire to spend a year researching the shit out of ancient Syria (my native country) and writing a historical fiction piece set there. I adore historical fiction, and I definitely hope to see much more of it.