There’s probably no point in waiting to publish this, so here it is. This is the first book that is not highly recommended from me and for the blog. It’s a sad milestone but it was bound to happen. I kind of want you to read it so I won’t be alone in my misery but it would be best if you avoided it.
Series: The Flaxfield Quartet; Book 1
Author: Toby Forward
ROTS Setting: UU, Medieval, Dragons, Higher Magic
Synopsis: Sam was on his way to becoming a wizard. However when his master dies, questions begin to arise about the young apprentice. Fearing those questions the boy runs away……Everything else follows for no other purpose than to connect abstract plot points.
Recommendation: Mild death and torture references so probably 10-12 year old reading level, but requires a post-secondary reading comprehension to vaguely understand anything beyond the pure text. I’m somewhere between “meh” and “this was a terrible book.”
Please note that spoilers will be used heavily in this review because I really feel I need to explain why this book isn’t very good.
– – Spoilers – –
I had some serious issues with this book and almost quite reading a quarter of the way in. However, I stuck it out so I could be well informed when I wrote this review. You should thank me for my noble sacrifice.
I really can’t tell you much about the world setting. There is magic. There are some funky rules about magic. Anyone can use a little magic, but only those with the talent AND have been trained as an apprentice have real magic. Magic is everywhere, and also a finite resource as it dries up, runs out, and extinguishes.
“Deep World” is a place that some unimportant/uninteresting critters live, and “Up Top” is where people live. Also the “Finished World” is where dead people go, but they can only get there if a wizard sends them there. No one has ever come back so how/why wizards started sending dead people there defies logic.
There are 17 kinds of dragons but only 9 have ever been seen by people. (Then how do we know about the other 8?) At least 3 of the varieties are smaller than a boy of 12. Dragons have magic, unknown life spans and bring “luck.” Good or bad luck to whatever the person deserves. There is no differences between a day old dragon and a million year old dragon. Dragon magic is strong. Dragons are independent intelligent creatures, but they don’t speak….except for one……maybe…….it’s confusing.
“Wizard” is an ambiguous term to denote any “trained” magic user. There is supposed to be a big difference between them but the author failed to make any difference clear or distinct. In the last 50 pages of the book it separates them into three categories. Those without the talent can use magic to preform “tricks” with training at the Wizard College. Some talented people end up there too but only learn the “tricks”. None of the collegiate wizards know how to do magic “safely” so they are dangerous. There are also talented people who are untrained but use magic in their everyday life but are also a danger to themselves and everyone else. Lastly there are what I like to call “puritans” or “true” wizards. They are both talented and “properly” trained. I can only describe there behavior as selfish/hypocritical and ignorant……and these are the “good” guys! Again there are a bunch of pointless rules about magic that are supposed to have consequences, but never actually do anything.
And that’s the world setting……literally that’s it. Ok, I glossed over the unimportant bits about the unimportant critters that could have easily been replaced by humans or excluded altogether. But literally everything else is in there. There is nothing about non-magic life such as kings/leaders, countries, geography, or history so the storyline is just floating there completely ungrounded to the setting.
On to the characters…….they are as flat as the paper they are written on.
The main character is Sam. He is halfway through his training as an apprentice to the greatest wizard of his time……can’t say anything beyond that as nothing beyond that is ever mentioned. The old guy knows he’s dying and even “prepares” the boy for his death…..yet makes no actual preparations for that death. So everyone suddenly knows that the dude is dead and shows up for the “Finishing” (funeral) all on their own. They all then doubt that the boy is the dudes apprentice. So instead of doing anything intelligent Sam runs away. This is the weakest part of the entire storyline because everything else that follows stems from this decision. The whole story rests on this single decision and it’s weak and lame. The old guy doesn’t make a single attempt to ensure that there is a smooth transition to a new wizard master so Sam can finish his training. On top of that Sam is supposed to be “the One.” Don’t ask me what that is or how everyone knows what that is because it’s never mentioned.
Then, Sam uses no magic to thwart 5 highly trained wizards as they use every magical means to track him. (Yet they can’t used any magic selfishly…..hmmm hypocrites much?) Then his dragon uses it’s magic to keep them off his trail. Every person that Sam meets demands that he uses magic to prove himself……which he does but every instance is “selfless.” The whole book is filled with convenient plot points and as a result the character never grows and remains two-dimensional.
As I’ve been pointing out, the whole premise of the book is flawed. There is zero foreshadowing and a complete lack of a climax to the book. Even Sam becoming “Dragonborn” is glossed over. (Dragonborn is where a person, probably wizard, has a shared existence with a dragon. Nothing else is explained.) In fact one of the wizards that was chasing Sam ended up being “wolfborn” but that is only revealed at the end too. Again, no foreshadowing.
Lastly, the bad guy is a some creepy woman in an old castle. She is probably the most developed character and might also be dragonborn, but her click-clack friend is never identified so that might be the only piece of foreshadowing in the whole book which isn’t even resolved in this book. She’s evil and trapped in her castle. It’s implied that the old master wizard that died was the one who trapped her, but if that was so you’d think that the highly trained wizards would know that and stay away (they are also the old guys apprentices too (seriously, how smart could this guy have been because he’s a serious idiot when it comes to pretty much everything important beyond magic)). Instead 3 of them enter and one leaves brainwashed. The baddy expects that she will be free with the old guys death, but isn’t for unknown and mysterious reasons. I can come up with a couple of possible explanations but because there is next to no explanation for the basic world setting each is as likely as the next……including “just because,” or “plot point,” or “why not?”
In writing this review I have decided that I do not recommend this book. It’s hard for me to do it because “dragons”, but it’s not worthy of those amazing creatures. If you do decide to read it, Jared, I look forward to hearing your impressions.