Daniel Fife asked me to review his first book "Light Dark The Awakening of MageKnight". The protagonist, Danny is a normal student when he stumbles into a battle between a white dragon and a black shadow creature. The next day he finds out the dragon was the pretty new transfer student he has a crush on. She draws him into her world, where she is a squire for the Order of the Light and fights the shadow monsters who seek to destroy the world.
It is not the most original of plots. Anyone with a drop of genre savvy could predict every plot twist in the story. Except for one which, appropriately, is the most important one of all. Even without that it is still a enjoyable read.
1.This isn't some half-assed cliche storm. Mr.Fife put thought into the life of the knight's community to create the full picture. The knight's tailor, for instance, has zilch to do with the plot but he is necessary for the setting. Someone's got to make the squire robes, after all, and someone needs to tailor them to fit the flabby rookies as they develop into lean knights. There's also a scene about elfin tea practices which serves as character development in addition to world building. It's one of my favorite scenes.
2. Another one of my favorite scenes is the squire duel. Mr. Fife knows how to write an action scene. He also knows how to give his hero a superpower without it turning in a gamebreaker or introducing a kryptonite factor to negate it entirely. All it does is level the playing field against stronger and more experienced opponents.
3. The transition from event to event is smooth and believable. Thus the pacing is enjoyable, except for one part which I will get to later. Mr.Fife does not rely on idiot balls to move the plot along. Instead it is powered by the agendas of many different people contrasting and meshing.
4. The character development is great, or more appropriately, it becomes great after the characters arrive at the knight school. Once he focuses on the main characters (instead of introducing new ones every chapter) they all develop distinct and likable personalities.
This book has its flaws. There are three of them and they're all in the first arc.
1. Pacing. Dragons don't show up until the fourth chapter (p. 18) and that is a brief moment. Answers and genuine world building don't come for another 7 pages. In-universe the pacing is also off. The story begins on the first day of school, then skips weeks to the first shadow, then a sixth month skip where apparently both the good and bad guys sit on their butts and do nothing, and finally a skip to the end of school. In 45 pages, only two shadows show up and Danny is just beginning to find out about them. If this were a TV show, all of that would be dealt with in the first episode, second tops.
I have a suspicion that Mr.Fife wanted to make Danny as identifiable as possible and this is the reason for the odd pacing. 'first day of the school year', 'bullies' 'crushes', etc. These had to happen in school for the reader to slot themselves into Danny's place. Once this is established, Mr.Fife has to make month long jumps where nothing happens to put his characters into a 'summer knight training school' where the plot truly begins.
2. Characters. There are too many characters introduced early on that are not important. It's a waste of space and a drag on the storyline. Their characterization is also a problem. No one has a solid character in the first arc; not Danny, not Sabrina, no one. I referred to them as 'average guy' and 'pretty new girl' until they arrived at the knight academy. Danny's friends are even worse; they're names with a biography attached. All of them are better characterized by the end but that doesn't justify their poor characterization at the start.
3. Construction. Normally I praise world building but only if it serves to build the full picture. What Mr.Fife did in the first arc violates the Law of Conservation of Detail. He introduces half a dozen characters in the first arc who will never be seen or heard from again; builds a school environment; starts the story on the first day of school when the meat of the story takes place when its over. It's a horrible idea to build this setting and then throw it away.
Based on the first arc (the first 45 or so pages) it deserves an F. Based on the remaining 150 or so pages, it deserves an A or B. I can't reconcile the 'mundane school' writing with the 'knight school writing'. It's like they were written by different people.
Trickster Eric Novels doesn't know what to give this book.
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