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Soul Searcher, by Stephen S. Arend Book Review | SFReader.com
Soul Searcher, by Stephen S. Arend Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Publish America Published: 2005 Review Posted: 6/27/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10
Soul Searcher, by Stephen S. Arend
Book Review by Mark Deniz
Have you read this book?
In Soul Searcher, newcomer Stephen S. Arend, introduces us to the world of Atla and gives us a novel in the classic high fantasy genre, a story of good versus evil, of journeys, of friendship and companionship.
Soul Searcher begins with a battle between mage lords, a battle for domination and the result is an interesting one to say the least, with Mordeth losing the battle and finding half his being trapped within a soul gem and the other half leaving his tower as a half-soul mercenary with no past, yet with hidden memories.
Rork, the mercenary, knows that there is someone or something waiting for him in the city of Narqual, knows that he is not whole, that people have trouble looking him in the eye and seeing the eyes of one who isn't fully human.
He is accompanied on his journey by Bregan, the scout son of a legend from the Blight Wars, a young man who is able to look into Rork's eyes without flinching, a character who has secrets of his own, secrets that not even he is aware of... yet.
And so we follow them on their journey across the land to search for Rork's answers in Narqual, picking up a couple of intriguing passengers on the way. It is a novel written with many other novels of the same genre in mind, the quest, the travel and companionship.
Although there is a very obvious sense of traditional fantasy clichés, this book has much to offer in way of ideas and overall story and I never once sat and felt that I was reading something that could just well have been another of the countless Tolkien copies on offer today.
I was, I admit, a little negative in the beginning as I think the cover art and overall layout of the book is quite amateurish, yet Arend changed my opinion quite quickly, due to strong characterisation and an interesting plot, simple though it seemed at first glance with the journey across the country to find answers, turning into a development of character and of friendship, along with some interesting encounters.
One fantasy writing technique that I have had trouble with of late is the obsession to describe battles in minute detail, giving the reader no sense of imagination and slowing the story down considerably. This is a strong point with Soul Searcher as, even though there are the inevitable confrontations, they are written with enough clarity to give you a sense of the conflict, yet to still keep the pace fluid and more importantly, keep the reader interested.
Much as the Blighted have comparisons with several fantasy villains, most notably the Ring wraiths of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" books, Arend manages to keep them unique enough for them to be engaging and keep the book fresh. There are of course other villains within the volume, yet it is the Blighted that stand out.
One overwhelming negative I had within the novel was the character of Angus, who was far too Scottish to make him believable within Arend's fantasy world. He had red hair, played the pipes, wore a kilt, came from the north and spoke with a strong northern accent. If Arend wants to avoid being tagged as a cliché writer he would be wise to stay away from characters such as these.
Even though I was aware that this was book one of a series, yet not knowing how many there are to follow, I felt that the end of Soul Searcher was satisfying. It didn't leave me with a sense of urgency to read part two (although I am looking forward to it) but neither did it leave me feeling cheated by getting half a story. There is a knack to finishing an episode in a series and Arend has performed admirably with this one.
I enjoyed Soul Searcher very much and could easily recommend it to those new to fantasy literature but also to those well versed in the fantasy genre, as it is an interesting story, with good character development, well-paced and engaging throughout.
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