Title: The Children of Never: A War Priests of Andrak Saga
Author: Christian Warren Freed
This novel introduces readers to the world of the war priests of Andrak, a select group of men and women who fight off the darkness of the Omegri every year.
Usually, they only have to fight monsters during the 100 days of the Burning Season, but troubles in the once-peaceful duchy of Fent lead to Brother Quinlan and his apprentice being dispatched to investigate a once-dead knight who is taking children and disappearing. Ghosts have been sighted, and it seems the veil between realms is thinning to where war may soon consume the land.
The world building for this story is rich and original, creating a vibrant backdrop through customs and mannerisms, cultures and races. There are war priests from various heritages, and while the main characters seem to share the same general culture, there are also supporting characters from other backgrounds, like the lowly foot soldiers who provide humor and a sense of normalcy, providing balance to the more knowledgeable and worried voices in the novel.
The range of characters provides a variety of perspectives on the world, from the children who are being taken to the parents who are left behind, the war priests’ apprentices and various agents working with the Omegri. However, it can feel like these perspectives dilute the overall experience by giving too many voices and not enough time with each to truly know them.
Some of this could be further affected by the narrative use of telling rather than showing, to where characters’ reactions are explained rather than seen in action. The men, women, and children themselves each come across as real and relatable, though, and perhaps the series will elaborate on some of them and their character arcs in the future.
The story itself is believably dogged with dead ends, corruption, collusion, and trouble, with the antagonists knowing far more than the heroes. Even though the war priests have magic at their disposal, they are far from all-powerful, leaving them vulnerable many times to where victory is uncertain throughout the book, and the human antagonists are depicted as flawed rather than purely evil, adding to the realistic tone of this work.
The plot structure can feel choppy, overall, as the focus changes just when something important or significant is about to unfold, taking the narration to another part of the story and world. Upon return to the first plot thread, the moment has usually passed, which progresses the story forward nicely but can also create the feeling of missing revelations and interactions. This back-and-forth seems to also lead to duplicate passages of information, which can further slow down the pacing.
At times, the narration can be elaborate to the point of being unclear, but it does create a compelling mood of despair, uncertainty, and confusion. The description is effective and detailed, but the lack of immediacy where the characters are concerned influences it, to where readers may feel like they’re being told about a place more than actually experiencing it.
The characters are varied and interesting, and the supernatural beings are nicely unique, creating a new realm for readers to explore. Intriguing and evocative, the world of the story will pull readers in, providing a great start to a new fantasy series while delivering an adventurous story full of danger, supernatural worries, perils, hopes, and fears.
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