Andretta Shellinger requested that I read one of her client's books. She is a co-owner of Wizards Keep Publishing and the client is Dana Journey. His book The Apprentices-Crimson Guard Trilogy was published in November and she contacted me to aid its exposure. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish, and then assign a grade.
The prologue is fantastic. It has this sense of epic battle while this wise old mage is doing something Last Resort like. A panicky boy runs in and underscores the master's calm. This master mage, Mantiloc, is more annoyed at this apprentice mage's lack of a spine than the invading army outside his doorstep. It's "the youth of today are pathetic" sort of grumbling that is stereotypical of grumpy old people. The context makes it humorous. Then Mantiloc initiates his Last Resort, thoroughly thwarting the invasion attempt, and thus leading the villain to shout We Will Meet Again. Reading this prologue in the Amazon preview is what convinced me to accept this review request.
The first chapter is also good. It starts out with Lyndon referencing Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" and how he doesn't like that road because he doesn't like change. Thus, Lyndon is quickly and excellently set up as a Reluctant Hero and a snarky one at that, which promises to be fun to read. The following two events (The Burning City Library and work as caravan guards) are similarly interesting and well set up. The first one even addresses an instance of Fridge Logic in a humorous fashion. They could be fleshed out more, polished a little better, but they're still good. It's the following arcs (about half the book) that have problems.
The general thrust of the plot is Lyndon gathering the titular "apprentices". They are the apprentices of four other apprentices of Mantiloc. There's a prophecy saying they are essential to ending a long and supernatural war. This is the connecting thread between all the adventures within this story. However, this is only a "rear view mirror" perspective on the plot. The way it is presented is much different.
Lyndon starts his journey without any objective; not to gather the apprentices, not to rescue/avenge Mantiloc, not For Great Justice, just to satisfy curiosity provoked by a stranger. The events that lead to each arc appear to be coincidence rather than character driven goals. It's less annoying than it could be because the prologue has Mantiloc talk about prophecies and afterward Lyndon monologues about destiny and how he feels it will drag him down a troublesome path because that's what his master talks about. Because Destiny Said So is a legitimate trope but here it lacks the development to fully distinguish itself from bad/lazy writing.
There's constant jumping around in terms of character perspective, which is made worse by the changes in narration. When Lyndon has the POV, the narration is first person; everyone else is third. It is confusing and jarring.
The fight against the Big Bad is not resolved in this book because it's not started. This book's conflict is basically a recruitment program and that is resolved but it is subtle. Mr. Journey is clearly going for a queuing up cliffhanger, but because nothing has been set up, there's nothing behind it and so the cliffhanger lacks force.
Lyndon is a Vanilla Protagonist. He's a first person narrator with little in the way of personality or driving goal. Initially he had this Didn't Want An Adventure thing but that disappeared quickly. Later in the book, he remarks that "all I wished for was excitement". Other people tell him where to go and what to do and his berserker side does the fighting for him, so he himself doesn't do much of anything. It makes me think he was deliberately created this way to show off the others. There are flashes to a personality, but for the most part it's bland.
There's only one way to explain why Juleen falls so quickly for him, why the other apprentices don't ditch him, and why an army volunteers to work for him despite the fact that the only payment he can provide is, by his own admission, "death on a distant battlefield". That explanation is "destiny". Again, this wouldn't be a bad thing if it were further developed. The Red String of Fate, for instance, is a time-honored justification for why two people quickly fall in love.
The other apprentices are all more interesting characters than Lyndon. Their backstories are more detailed, their personalities are more visible, and they take action based on motivations, because they have motivations. Jes has his friend loyalty and Lovable Rogue personality, Frey explicitly talks about destiny to explain himself and demonstrates compassion in a big way, Naomi has this fiery snarky thing and her introduction justifies why she stays with the group, and Talon has this Gentle Giant Atoner thing going for him.
This is highlighted during a scene where the party is captured and shackled: Jes picks his chain locks with rogue skills, Talon breaks his with his dragon strength, and Naomi melts her's with fire magic. Lyndon just sits there and narrates.
Redington is a case of Fridge Logic. He's implied to be the person who gives Lyndon the scroll that sets him off and then he leaves until the end of the story. At that point, he explains a bunch of stuff, including why the apprentices are important. Why does he wait? If the apprentices are so important, why doesn't he help?
The book I initially received was an unedited rough draft. I read most of it before either I or Miss. Shellinger noticed this and so I saw a lot of grammar errors and other stylistic problems. After I received the fixed copy, I still noticed these things but to a lesser degree.
There are missing apostrophes for the possessive tense.
There is no distinction in text to show that someone is thinking. With Lyndon's POV, this is worse because it is difficult to distinguish his thoughts from his narration.
The prose is immature and clunky. The dialogue and narration often sounds artificial, like it's trying too hard to be elegant or poetic.
In the final part of the story, there are no paragraph breaks to separate two or more people talking. It's all one paragraph with whatever action they take. It's hard to read. It feels as though the editor didn't reach this part.
The book is "ALMOST" a good one. If it were truly bad, then this review would be easy to write and this book easy to grade. Instead, it is constantly on the verge of something great. It's just not quite there yet. There's nothing fundamentally flawed. It could shine with a lot more polish and organization.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Apprentices-Crimson Guard Trilogy book 1" a C
Click here for the next book review (which was a request): Terran Psychosis
Click here for the previous book review (which was not a request): Rich Dad, Poor Dad