This is the debut novel from Marshall Ryan Maresca. I try to read new authors--and in particular, debut novels--as much as possible and am trying to do so even more this year as a New Year's resolution. This novel was a fun take on fantasy, mixing in some elements comic book flavor in terms of the storyline.
The premise: Veranix is a student at the local university studying magic--the use of numina
. But secretly he's using his powers to hunt down and hound those in the surrounding area called Dentonhill who are dealing a drug called effitte
. The ringleader of the drug dealers in a man who killed Veranix's father and forced his mother to take so much of the drug that her mind is lost, her body lying with dozens of others who were overcome by the drug. Veranix initially only intends to hurt the drug trade, but when he accidentally intercepts a deal involving a magic cloak and rope, everything changes . . .
As you can imagine, with a magic cloak and rope, the story takes on some comic book attributes--Batman, anyone? Veranix sneaks out at night and fights against the drug dealers, trying to destroy as much effitte
as he can. Of course, initially his activities are minor nuisances, but with the cloak and rope to aid him, his attacks become much more troublesome to the ringleader and things escalate. Not to mention that the items he's accidentally come by were intended for a group of mages that desperately want them back and will do anything to get them. So the plot itself is very comic book-esque in nature . . . and the book itself takes on that tone. If you start reading with that in mind--that this is simply going to be a fun ride--then you'll enjoy the book.
The main character is certainly likeable--a little flippant, perhaps too daring, and somewhat oblivious about the realities of what it is he's attempting to do and what it is that he's stumbled into. I enjoyed following along his story, and I enjoyed his interactions with the his friends and mentors at the university. It's obvious his friends more or less "put up" with him, one out of true friendship, the other out of a similar sense of revenge that grows into something else, and a cousin out of family obligations.
The setting itself is a stereotypical medieval-ish fantasy world. It's obvious that the world has been well-developed, with tons of references to history and other lands, but the book itself sticks primarily to the city of Maradaine. And yet this was the most disappointing aspect of the book for me. The street gangs with their own lingo were interesting, but I didn't get any sense of originality in the world itself. There was no sense of uniqueness to the world, and I was searching for that.
Also, me being me, I kept expecting the storyline to take a much darker turn. This is a personal issue though, since the book never "promised" a darker turn in any way. I still kept expecting some more serious consequences for Veranix's actions. The plot down turn downward against him, of course (all plots do eventually), but the consequences weren't as significant as I'd hoped for.
Which is why I say that if you go into this novel with the idea that it's simply a fun little jaunt through Maradaine, like a superhero comic set in a fantasy world, then you'll thoroughly enjoy the book. It delivers on all of those aspects completely. But because the world itself was a little too stereotypical and the consequences weren't as dark as I personally like, I dropped what would have been a 4 star out of 5 review to a 3. I will be reading the next novel set in Maradaine, but I'll do so with a different set of expectations before I begin.