Richard Denning asked me to read his novel "The Amber Treasure". It takes place in fifth-sixth century British Isles and involves territory wars between the Saxons and the Romano-Britons. I will examine plot, characters and polish and then assign a grade.
There are two plot threads here, personal and impersonal, and they are skillfully woven together. On one hand, the protagonist is looking to rescue his sister and retrieve a family heirloom, but on the other hand, the guy responsible is part of a plot to conquer Saxon land and drive the Saxons themselves back into the sea.
One might think that this is going to be a solo journey, or at most, a ragtag bunch of misfits but it's neither. It's more realistic than that. It's a formal militia marching to the guy's lair. It doesn't end there either. This story is a military campaign conducted by kings with Cedric, a greenhorn soldier, as it's emotional core. It's engaging and exciting but it is not hotblooded.
I call Amber Treasure the Blue Oni to 300's Red Oni. Instead of Large Hams and bullet time and badass boasts etc there is planning and rhetoric and reflection. This is because it is a first person account written by Cedric as an old man. Naturally he has had time to think about what happened and present everything the way a historian would.
Another thing I like to say about this book is "Your Sister Is In Another Castle". There is a repeated sense of 'not quite there yet' as Cedric continues his personal quest to retrieve what he lost when his village was attacked.
There's an Idiot Ball or two but it is understandable. I've read too many real life historical accounts about people dooming themselves because of idiotic actions to hold them against fictional characters.
There is a terrific resolution. This is a story that resolves it's current conflict but leaves open the path to future conflict. It's hard to strike that balance but Mr.Denning does a fantastic job.
I like Cedric, the protagonist. He's a heroic guy and a humble guy. He's aware of his faults. He fights bravely but is not a Conan the Barbarian expy. One of his friends is bigger and stronger while his other friend is faster and a better archer. This guy is the leader. Cedric the Narrator will comment on the qualities of a leader and how he possessed them in sufficient qualities to lead men as a teenager.
What I like about this is that Cedric states at the beginning that he writes this story to preserve what happened but he doesn't paint himself in a flattering light. Indeed, more often then not it's a self-deprecating light.
Cedric's friends, Edward and Cuthbert are minor characters and receive characterization appropriate to minor characters. I could say the same for the rest of the supporting case but what I want to focus on is the nameless background characters.
There is no such thing as Always Chaotic Evil in this story. Cedric often writes how their enemies are no different then himself and his community. Indeed, he points out several boys his age on the other side that are just as scared as him. Then he goes further and says that the Britons have more basis for calling the Saxons Always Chaotic Evil then the Saxons do the Britons because the Saxons migrated to the British Isles and took over and enslaved the natives.
No typos, no grammar errors. It has a thoughtful and reflective air about it. It wouldn't be hard for Mr.Denning to pose this as a real life historical diary.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Amber Treasure" an A+ (The third such for a novel)
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