Book Review: “The Awakening of David Rose” by Daryl Rothman

In 2013, I met a friend. His name was Daryl.

We met at a writing conference, and he told me he was (unsurprisingly) writing a book. Several, actually. He was editing one, a young adult fantasy novel, and was pitching that, along with an adult literary fiction novel, at the conference. He seemed cool.

We traded numbers. We got coffee on the pretense of writing together. We wrote together several times, on the pretense of getting coffee. Sometimes we wrote more, sometimes we talked more. Sometimes I insisted that he keep quiet while I write because I really had to finish what I was working on. (Which was my debut novel, The Sowing, and we were on a deadline: it really was important.) Sometimes he didn’t care and kept talking anyway, and I’m very grateful for those moments when he didn’t care that I had work to do, because out of those moments of stubbornness I got one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

I’m sorry. You thought this was going to be a book review, didn’t you? Don’t lose hope. It will be, I promise, but it has a little ways to go yet.

Daryl and I became friends on the pretense of being writers first. He asked me if my mom, who owns a small independent publishing company in St. Louis, might be interested in publishing his YA. I read it, and then politely declined, or he didn’t care to properly submit, or something similar, for reasons I’ve forgotten, so they must have been unimportant.

We drank more coffee.

Coffee, it turns out, is very important to Daryl. But not as important as writing.

Daryl has dreamed of being a writer since he was in high school English class, a dream he nobly and tragically postponed, first for a marriage, and then for kids, and then for the way that life can get in the way. But the dream never died. It was just postponed.

A few months ago, Daryl had his first novel published by Booktrope, which, quite literally one week later, went under.

It seemed an odd stroke of luck for someone who had just achieved something he’d dreamed of for over two decades. That, within the first week of his debut novel being published, his publisher should fold.

Nevertheless, because by this point Daryl was one of my best friends, I bought his book, downloaded it onto my Kindle, and promised that, once I was through with my obligations to other friends and my intermittent attempts at self-improvement through reading self-important works of literature, I would read and review his book.

Here is the promised review.

Daryl’s first novel is excellent.

Not “OH MY GOD I NEARLY SHAT MYSELF WHILE READING THIS IT WAS SO GOOD” excellent.

Not “I’m just saying this because Daryl is also one of my best friends” excellent.

Just, excellent. It’s well-written, a good story with endearing characters, with a quick pace and a steady heartbeat..

I can objectively say this. You might challenge me. I challenge you: read the book. It’s quite good. Excellent, even.

Fine. I will get to the review.

ROTHMAN_FRONT COVER

Daryl’s first novel is called THE AWAKENING OF DAVID ROSE, and it is a story quite similar, in some ways, to one of my childhood favorite books, THE DARK IS RISING series, by Susan Cooper. It also has similarities to the Nickelodeon TV show AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER. (Which, if you haven’t watched it, is quite literally one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. Go watch it. Now.) THE AWAKENING OF DAVID ROSE is about a fifteen-year-old named David Rose, who comes to discover, to his great surprise, that he is the heir to a reincarnation cycle thousands of years old, and with it, a conflict thousands of years in the making.

Beginning with a strange encounter with a nymph a single day before his fifteenth birthday, David is plagued by what might be called a series of unfortunate events that all lead up to him and his family taking a trip to Kane Manor, built close to the famous Tintagel Castle in England, where David reluctantly discovers that he is the heir to the Lancelot side of the ancient Lancelot-Gawain duel for the love of a fair maiden (Guinevere? We’re never told), and a long tradition of good vs. evil style battling for the fate of the world.

In between, David is torn between  his duty to his younger sister Rachel, to whom he has promised to try to find out what really happened to their mother when she disappeared (died? David refuses to believe it) in an explosive car accident a year and a half ago, and his schoolwork, real life, and relationship with his father. Meanwhile, there is Donovan, the son of David’s father’s new love interest. Donovan and David develop a terse rivalry, in which they both pretend to be friends (and actually seem to be genuinely trying to be friends) but keep coming unexpectedly into conflict – primarily over girls. From Rachel, David’s sister, who has an uncanny dislike of Donovan, to David’s high school crush, Amanda. David likes her, but Donovan asks her to the school dance, violating the unspoken ‘bro code’ between guys of all generations – thou shalt not ask a girl to the dance when your friend has already told you he likes her. Duh. Come on, Donovan. Even I know that.

The writing is excellent. Daryl alternates well between a mature, literary style, most clearly exemplified during the moments of reflection and in the scene-setting descriptions, and a more young-adult-ish style, which comes across in the dialogue. The nonchalant teenager repartee is almost perfectly depicted, as is Rachel’s character, whose bright, tenacious innocence makes her a foil for David’s skeptical, stolid nature. I’ve been told Rachel will have a larger role in the books to come, and I look forward to seeing how she grows.

THE AWAKENING OF DAVID ROSE is to be a four-part series, I’m told, with three more books to come. I hope the next ones do not take as long to appear as the first one did, but I trust now that Daryl has launched his first book into the world, the rest will not be so far behind. I will, of course, be following his journey – as a friend first, a fellow writer second, and now, most recently, as a fan.

Highly recommended, for all those who enjoy children’s or young adult fantasy.

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