Awakening (The Ydron Saga book 1) by Raymond Bolton
This is volume one of a multi-part series. Awakening, (See Raymond Bolton’s author interview) like Star Wars, takes place on a distant planet, yet it is in many ways similar to earth (but with binary suns). The main race seems to be very similar to humans, and the level of technology is mostly Medieval, with a bit of steam power and bio-luminescence thrown in. Although invisible to nearly everyone, the people are not alone. Representatives of two alien races are also present among them. One race, called the Dalthen, is totally devoid of compassion and wishes to turn the entire population into herds of livestock, to be used as food. The other race is more benevolent, though few in number. Years before, the friendly aliens genetically (and secretly) modified a few people, including the prince of the realm, Regilius (Reg) Tonopath, to give them the potential to confront the Dalthen through telepathic powers. (I found this novel on the Book Club Reading List)
The story follows familiar forms, but includes plot twists which add freshness to what could have been a quite conventional fantasy/sci-fi tale. Unlike most sci-fi, there is little said about futuristic technology. Unlike typical fantasy, there is no use of magic, and very little mention of mythological creatures (though there is a sort of dinosaur used as a riding beast). It is a bit like Tolkien’s works, except instead of taking place ages ago on earth, it is set in a different star system. But there is a bit of Middle Earth to be found, nevertheless. The story centers around Prince Reg, his little sister, Lith-An, and their allies and friends whom they enlist in a struggle to overthrow their queen-mother, Duile Morged Tonopath. Similar to Lady Macbeth, she murders the king, their father, and takes over his kingdom. Perhaps even more important, Reg and a few others with special gifts aim to keep the Dalthen from subjugating the entire world.
Characters and Setting
The main characters are strongly developed, with real growth as they face numerous challenges. The minor characters are less so, and some are difficult to keep straight, since they tend to fall into conventional types. But Leovar Hol, the prince’s friend, his tutor Ai’Lorc (and a benevolent alien), and Pithien Dur, a telepathic rebel, are examples of secondary characters who are clearly delineated. Prince Reg comes across as a sympathetic person, sincerely trying to do what is best for his kingdom. Good is clearly shown as good, and evil is revealed for what it is. Dialogue is well done, though long speeches are sometimes used to fill in backstory. The setting shows real imagination, and one gets the clear sense that we are not in Kansas, anymore.
They strolled along, two figures casting four long shadows beneath binary suns across the expansive plain above the sea.
I must note that there are some powerful scenes showing ship handling as the prince and friends battle a raging storm. This is exceptionally well-written, somewhat in the style of the Horatio Hornblower tales of C.S. Forester. The author conveyed both nautical expertise and a real sense of peril. Great stuff. Here is a line of dialogue:
“Secure that halyard and come aft. I need you to raise the mizzen when we tack. We can raise the stays’l after.”
The novel kept several plot threads going and various points of view. A couple of these threads seemed to drag the plot a bit, such as those involving Marm, the nanny. While some of these could have been condensed, they all eventually made a needed contribution to the story line.
That raises the issue of editing. It is good, but the text does have some comma issues. Punctuation errors, however, do not detract from the pleasure of the read. I have seen similar things from books released by major publishing houses.
I found this an impressive work. It is vividly imagined, and the plot had plenty of surprises. The loose ends were tied off neatly, and the book stands on its own. Bolton is an author with real talent, with a gift for finding a vivid phrase. There is danger, courage in the face of soulless evil and overwhelming odds, decency in the face of treachery, and honor. It deserves five stars, in my opinion. I look to read more from this author.