Review: Catalyst (The Passage of Hellsfire, Book 1) by Marc Johnson

     Catalyst (The Passage of Hellsfire, Book 1)
Marc Johnson ; Kindle Edition, 197 pages
Published March 19th 2011 by Longshot Publishing
For centuries, the kingdom of Alexandria has protected Northern Shala from the monstrous creatures lurking in the Wastelands. Now, a dark force threatens that fragile peace.
Far from home, Alexandria’s princess is abducted. When a young villager named Hellsfire stumbles upon her and her captors, he rushes in to rescue her, alone and unarmed. His fear and fury unleash an uncontrollable magical force that grants him the power to save the princess-and change the world.
Hellsfire has never craved nor dreamed of power. But such magic as he now possesses has not been seen in Northern Shala for a thousand years, since the devastation of the War of the Wizards and the creation of the Wastelands.
Now Hellsfire must leave all he’s ever known, and make a dangerous journey to learn to master this wild, ferocious power-power he knows he is not ready to wield. More difficult still, he needs to master his emotions. If he can’t, the power will consume him, Alexandria will fall, and darkness will eclipse the land, destroying everyone he loves.
In the dead of cold, the spark shall burn…
Goodreads on Catalyst (The Passage of Hellsfire, Book 1)

New monitor (thanks Mom & Dad ), a cup of coffee and sitting comfortably in bed while typing this up. I’m in a good mood. I managed to finish this book, finally, after beating around the bush for the last few days. I’ve had a horrible disposition, and I hesitated to embrace the book in those conditions. So today, because the world felt like a bit of a better place (it’s the calm before the storm though…), I sinked into the read.

Lovely cover, isn’t it? It suits the content like a glove. See, that’s one reason I love indie books so much. It’s the writer that decides what image should cover their work, and they’ll always know better what really fits.

I liked the book, to make a long story short. I liked the world, because it was a fantasy-cozy sort of affair, having all those elements I’ve loved in every fantasy world or story. I wouldn’t say there was something overly fresh about the world building, maybe because fantasy tends to have limited resources at times. But then again, maybe I feel that way because I often watch Dad and Mom play World of Warcraft, and after seeing that world, there’s little a new fantasy world can spring on you. Oh well.
So the world was nice. The plot was very visual, I could clearly picture it in a WoW-like movie, with all the effects and magic elements. I wouldn’t say it was riveting, but it was cool to read. The writing was good, it transitions nicely into dynamic mental pictures. There were a lot of good to very good elements in there.

What I didn’t really get into were the characters. Let’s take Hellsfire, for instance. This is a coming of age novel, a nicely made bildungsroman. Hellsfire starts out a poor, sort of isolated kiddo, and ends up a wizard, flirting with a princess. He goes through trials, training, he evolves; yet he never looses a strangely grating way of expressing himself. There’s a pedantic hue about him that effectively kept me from having feelings about the guy. I didn’t like him, I didn’t dislike him, I sort of cared because of the whole set of circumstances, but I didn’t cheer for him. I didn’t worry about him.

The princess, Krystal, was interesting, just like him, but again, didn’t invoke any emotional reaction. I would have liked them to be more young-adult friendly, you know? This is a young adult fantasy novel, one of the fewer ones, and I believe it would be a fabulous one, if the characters would feel more ya-friendly. It feels like they’re always trying too hard to be appropriate. I’m not sure the ya reader would enjoy that a lot. A parent might think this is a good read, because it transmits sound values, and proper, appropriate attitudes. I’m not so sure the ya segment would find that overly fun, though? Of course, it’s only my opinion, I could (and hope to be) quite wrong about it.

All in all, it was a pleasant read. I would recommend it, even if I didn’t get excited, because you guys might. After all, when it comes to appreciation for characters, each of us has their own particular likes and dislikes. This is a beautiful world, and it’s put together beautifully enough to pull off a pleasant read even without fetching characters – that’s no easy feat. I do believe the next books in the series will be a much more pleasant ride, because Hellsfire would grow up into a knight-like wizard, and his striving to be so proper might become him, rather the suit him strangely.


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