Rosaline Skinner asked me to read Exiled: Autumn's Peril-Book One (The Chronicles of Caleath. It's about a virtual reality champion turned gladiator turned fugitive.
The story begins with Caleath crash landing on a pre-industrial planet and dodging assassins sent by the villain on his way to a beacon that will teleport him off the planet so he can kill the villain. Around him there are two plots that hedge his movements.
1.) On the galactic scale, Caleath is the unwilling star of a new reality show called Real Time. It's set up by the villain to make money off his suffering. His flight from ranger/wardens forms the plot of this show and they are all magically compelled to kill him to prevent a peaceful resolution.
2.) On a local scale (i.e. everyone else) there is a problem with giant ants. These creatures will make the planet uninhabitable within years and conventional methods have minimal affect on them. This makes Caleath, an alien with different methods, a subject of interest to the Council of Mages.
These three plots (revenge, TV show, and killer ants) work together because Caleath is at the center and his response to the other two is 'leave me alone'.
I could nitpick some aspects of the plot (like how the villain installed his assassins as authority figures in a backwater planet far from home) but my main beef with the plot involves the ending. I like my plots to have resolution. Regardless of whether or not they are part of a series I don't like plots that just end. This book stands on edge of that cliff.
COURTESY SPOILER WARNING
On the one hand, there is resolution in the initial conflict; the assassins. By removing his implant, Caleath has rendered himself legally dead and so the magical compulsion driving the assassins has deactivated. That part of the plot is closed; they still want to kill him but for other reasons. Also, since the beacon can't teleport him off the planet he is stuck in exile which closes the 'escape' conflict of this book. On the other hand, the rangers still want to kill him, the villain is still tormenting Caleath, the giant ants are still ravaging the planet, and the book ends with Caleath in the same position as he started; running and plagued with guilt.
It makes more sense to consider the events from the prospective of someone watching this story in-universe. They see the end of an episode instead of the end of a book. If this is shown in real time, then there is no end at all. As the end of a book, it annoys me.
END SPOILER WARNING
Caleath is a complicated anti-hero; rude, paranoid, not necessarily interested in helping others but refuses to let anyone come to harm because of him. If not for his circumstances, he could be a straight up hero. Other characters receive less characterization. The wardens, for instance, are introduced in sequence and the best way to tell them apart is their order because there is only one trait that makes them different from the others. Rybolt's subtitle is 'Caleath's best friend' because he has nothing else. Penwryt is a guy I like; the old wise wizard archetype and his affable sense of humor. The contrast between this genuinely friendly wizard and Caleath's distrust of all magic users is another point in the plot's favor; conflict is created despite both sides being unambiguously good people. The only truly bad thing I have to say about the characters here concerns Nasith.
She is introduced as a historian, a capable fighter, and a respected enough figure in her community to be their representative at a Summit meeting. Then she's kidnapped by Caleath and suffers the dreaded Chickification. She cares less about the Summit (which is going to discuss the survival of the world) then about clinging to Caleath the further the plot continues. She relies on him to do the fighting and becomes borderline hysterical over having her fortune told. The fact she was under some sort of spell at the time does not make it rankle any less because it continues the trend and the trend does not stop after the spell was supposedly removed. Stockholm Syndrome sounds too romance-novely for this story and in any case it settles in too quickly and she has a quick opportunity to rejoin the rangers and go to the Summit.
The most intriguing aspect of this story's setting is the interplay of science and magic. Most stories that have a space age protagonist drop on a pre-industrial world involve a heavy use of Clarke's Third Law. Anything from the protagonist's technologically advanced homeworld will be called 'magic' on the other world but that is not the case here. Caleath's society not only has magic side by side with super tech but it is the same kind of magic as this 'primitive' society. Thus, it can be confusing as to what is is genuine magic and what is technology-that-is-easier-to-call-magic but I find this more interesting than confusing.
The vast majority of the story is written in Beige Prose, which I appreciate. My biggest pet peeve is word cruft/purple prose. I like the short and concise sentences used by Miss. Skinner.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Exiled: Autumn's Peril-Book One (The Chronicles of Caleath) a C.
Click here for the next review request: Exile's Violin.
Click here for the previous review request: Flames of Ether