Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Review - Strife of the Mighty - Julius Bailey

In April I bought a copy of this book at the end of a local self-publishing seminar by Julius Bailey.  The writer is not only very humble, interacting gracefully with those he teaches or speaks with, he is also a very talented writer.

I have always been rather thorough with my reviews, so, again, I have a lot to say.

As you can tell from the picture, the cover is beautifully done.  It fits the story far better than I had imagined it did.  The focus in the image is on two main characters, though a third surprised me in the book itself -- much as Hagrid from Harry Potter, and Hodor from Game of Thrones had.  The third man is not on the cover, but it is of little matter.  Right away, there is a sense of adventure, of peril, and of friendship.  The bonds that hold these characters together are beautiful, untainted, and strong.

The synopsis on the back had a unique grip that was its own, starting from the very first lines.  I was compelled to read further, so I opened the book and began to read.

The book itself, I found, had a rich, almost archaic tone.  It was a nice contrast to a lot of my other reads lately.  (Dean Koontz, yeah!)  It was not as fast paced as a thriller, but it did gradually build up an amazing arc--similar to The Lord of the Rings.  The opening was a nice, simple setting--quite homey.  Monstrous beasts emerged, and some life and death fighting led to both some grinning and some frowning.  I was a little slow to devour the first chapter, no thanks to all of the interruptions from Best Friend and Sweet Husband, however.  (Haha!)  But once I got some time alone to read, it became much easier.  (I recommend locking yourself in a closet!  Kidding.)

There wasn't too terribly much of a hook there at the opening, but I held on.  I was positive I would find something great, even without the amazing, snazzy first line or first paragraph I am used to trying to construct in my own works or analyze in bestsellers.  Evil was bound to be afoot, after all!  It was my duty to read on!

The exposition did overtake a few passages throughout the book, but that did not bother me much.  I had already realized this was a different beast with a different trot, so I settled in nicely and let myself enjoy the ride.

The first chapter was a great showing of the Original World, with the faintest shade of foreshadowing.  I turned the pages despite not having any overwhelming urgency to do so.  Because of my latest reading, I found myself wishing there was more...something.  Donald Maas calls it tension and micro tension in his book Writing 21st Century Fiction.  (Best book ever for writers!)  All that Strife of the Mighty needed was a few more contradictions pulling characters in more than one direction, with more than one thing at risk.  Tension is very, very good for a first chapter.  But not always necessary.

I did worry about repetition for a bit, but as the Inciting Incident took the main character Allon off on another tangent pretty much immediately in the book, I was pretty excited about the plot's developing craziness.  I even cried some, which is good.  The more emotional promise a book has in the beginning, the better.  It means it is relatable.  And this one was in places.

The dialogue, the character interactions, the default actions of the Allon--all of these were evident early on, and the story was good because of the things that pulled on his heart.  The writer showed restraint here, however.  I have seen many less experienced writers (myself included) fall into a pity trap, where the main character becomes a passive entity, trapped by his or her misfortunes rather than doing something.  But Allon makes choices, does things, and participates actively, even heroically, in his own story.

Even the mentor / hero figure Brandigan held me captive.  He was unique, even if slightly stand-offish.  I suppose he only seemed this way to me because of his radical intention to not reveal too many secrets to his companions.  (That's where the repetition worried me.)  Luckily, he does not hold back everything for the entire book, so have no fears, Readers!  (I loved the swords and the hair!)

Strife of the Mighty has the classic epic adventure, save-the-world theme, and the events throughout the story were very nice and transitioned smoothly without feeling forced, like some "And suddenly this happened!" books I have had the misfortune of crossing.

I loved the bog creatures!  Creepy, creepy bog creatures!

The settings were also grand.  I got to travel without ever leaving my seat!  Yay, lazy Me!

But most of all, a single character rose to the occasion, stepping out of the shadows of his companions on the cover of the book...and letting me know he was as unexpectedly strong and courageous as any hero.  That tag-along drunk named Merch stole my heart.  He is mighty sweet, an' mighty loyal, with strong backwater speech and a huge mug of humor to boot!  (True Brandy!) I love how fearful he is, and yet his loyalty takes him into dangerous situations.  He is useful, he is the glue of the trio, and he will worm his way right into your head and stay there.  He will probably be singing alehouse sonnets while he stays.

The warrior, depicted on the front cover, is the unbreakable hope that leads the story through to its completion.  I did come to fear for his life near the climax of the story, even though I didn't think I would.  I found myself suspecting who he was from as early as Chapter Four, but I was not disappointed when I learned more about him.  I was not disappointed in being right.  Because I could have been wrong.  The slightest doubt made his revelation sweet enough to keep.

The main character Allon kept me tied to the plot, serving as a guide and giving me a side to root for.  (Although Merch is still the most adorable dufas of the trio!)

I would have loved to see a little more foreshadowing and a few more "Oh--I should have seen that coming!" moments, but there was enough drama to keep me reading--especially once I hit the mid point of the book.  From there on, I read avidly.  Like a piranha, if it read books instead of ate you...

Ha! Bad metaphor, but who cares?

The great scope of creatures, both large and small, wild and tame, intelligent and mindless?  Beautiful.  The contrast between each gave a delightful rainbow, of sorts, to the story.  The people felt very natural in their differences from one another from town to town, also.  This made the book very well rounded, and because of that, it felt full--but not uncomfortably so.

Just because I'm arrogant, I'll not deny I saw one of the villains for who they were the moment they stepped onto the page.  I won't name him / her.  NO SPOILERS!  Muahahahahaha!!!

Overall, there was very little lagging in the story.  I greatly recommend this book to my friends, my family, and my followers.  I even bought it.  At a library seminar.  Where there are hundreds of free books on the shelves, all of them whispering my name.  Still, I bought it.  (Hey!  A girl's gotta help out a fellow writer!...And maybe I felt guilty for spending thirty minutes of his lecture telling everybody about my fav apps and platforms.  Hehe.  I am glad I helped my peers, though!)

Strife of the Mighty is definitely staying in my collection at home, after Best Friend reads it.  I'm sure Julius Bailey's next book will be even better, as is often the case with series books!  I will be purchasing and shelving the next one, too.

My wall of books will grow, hooray!

Overall Opinion:

Buy this or you will die.  Hahaha!  Kidding.  But seriously.  It's gooood.

Strife of the Mighty on

Julius Bailey's Blog

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