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Seeker, by William Nicholson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Harcourt
Published: 2007
Review Posted: 1/25/2008
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 7 out of 10

Seeker, by William Nicholson

Book Review by C. Dennis Moore

Have you read this book?

On the island of Anacrea, there is an order called the Nom, a group of warrior monks who live to serve and to protect the All and Only. They have neither armor nor weapons, yet they are unbeatable. To be one of them is the highest honor.

On the day of his sixteenth birthday, Seeker After Truth is determined to disobey his father's wishes for him to follow in his footsteps and become a teacher, and instead follow his brother, Blaze of Justice, to become a Nomana. Blaze has recently been "cleansed" and cast out for a crime the Nomana refuse to reveal and Seeker, certain it's all a mistake, wants to not only join his brother as a Noble Warrior, but also prove the Nomana have made a mistake in sending him away.

Farmer's daughter Morning Star, also just sixteen, has heard the calling as well and wants to travel to Anacrea and find her mother who, ten years earlier, left Morning Star and her father behind to become a Nomana.

And finally river pirate Wildman is told he can find peace in the garden of the Nomana temple, so he too has decided to join their ranks in order to find their peace and gain their power.

Unfortunately for all three, they're turned down. Not ready to accept defeat, they band together to prove themselves worthy of the title Noble Warrior. To do so, they've decided to travel to the city of Radiance where they've heard a secret weapon is being constructed that will destroy Anacrea and the Nomana. Once they've saved the island nation, the Nomana will have no choice but to admit their worth and accept them into their ranks.

While author William Nicholson is new to me, he's been around a while, having written the acclaimed Wind of Fire trilogy as well as his screenplay work. Nicholson contributed to the screenplays for "First Knight," "Gladiator," and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," as well as "Shadowlands," which was based on his play. His novel Seeker is the first in a series called The Noble Warriors and, at first, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Here I had this advance copy of some fantasy novel and, as I've said many times, I'm not a big fantasy reader. I always regret that I'm not because more often than not the ones I read turn out to be among the best books I read all year, but still I never gravitate to the genre, it always seems to come find me. And in this case, I'm glad it did.

I had a rough start (it took me nearly two weeks to get through the first half of this book), but once I hit that halfway mark, I wrapped up the rest of the book in only a couple of days, and thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process.

Some writers can give you solid characters, but the plot may be dull, while other writers have cardboard characters within a decent plot, but their writing is really good and somehow covers the weaknesses. Nicholson on the other hand has it all. I found myself caring for Seeker, Morning Star, and Wildman as they really embodied what the Nomana are, they were true Noble Warriors. And the plot . . . Nicholson has woven so many interesting threads within this story that I didn't think he'd be able to bring them all together in the end. Even when I was down to the last 30 pages, I was wondering how is he ever going to make this all work, but I'll be damned if he didn't pull it off, and I didn't even see it coming.

Plus, in addition to great characters and a well-constructed plot, Nicholson is a very detailed writer. He may not go into every single sight and smell of the forest as the trio make their way to Radiance, but he knows how to put the reader into the scene.

Somewhere close by was a glowing light. As his eyes slowly found focus, he saw that the smashed lantern lay a few inches from his face. Burning oil was trickling out from a crack in the lantern's reservoir and running between the cobblestones in a little river of flame. Unable to move, he watched, helpless but fascinated, as the flame made its way towards him. Because his eyes were right on the cobbles themselves, the flame seemed as tall as he was, and to move with a terrible and deliberate purpose. Then, just as it must reach his face, the rivulet of burning oil took a turn between the cobbles and passed him by. The flame passed close enough for him to feel its heat on his cheek. His eyes tracked its passing, and a sensation came over him that this was no accident.

I'm still not one hundred percent sure of the location for this story, whether some distant time in Earth's past or future, or whether an entirely different planet or plane (and it may not even matter in the end, it's just a personal preference for a solid sense of place), but nevertheless Nicholson has created a very real and interesting world. Radiance was one of the creepiest fictional lands I've ever been to, with its hate sessions and its daily tributes. The people of Radiance worship the sun and are convinced if they don't sacrifice to it every single day, it won't rise the next morning. So even if they have to grab a transient off the street and drug them, someone's going in the pit that night.

Seeker is one of those novels I would never have picked up of my own volition, but it's one of those novels I read and, during the reading, wish I had written because I know right away I'm in the presence of something great. I'm very curious to see where the series goes from here because, as far as I could tell, Seeker is one whole story, complete in itself with no need to go any further. That's not to say I wouldn't welcome a revisit with these characters, I just can't see what more there is to say about them. It's a coming of age story and, in the end, these characters have come of age. However, since my "advance" copy has a publication date of May 2006, I guess I don't have to wait long to find out, do I?

William Nicholson is a new writer to me, but he's one I'll always have a lot of respect for from here on out, and Seeker is a very good book and one I highly recommend.
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