Jeremy Hicks is a good friend of mine, and an Obi-Wan in my training as a writer. His book series, the Cycle of Ages Saga, is a fantasy series that I recommend anyone who isn't a fan of the fantasy genre, or who are at least skeptical, should read. It manages to break a lot of the typical fantasy cliches.
The Cycle of Ages Saga: Finders Keepers seems like a typical fantasy bore starting out. Readers unfamiliar with the genre may seem skeptical approaching a fantasy novel, given that the genre has been done to death and explored in depth thanks to media such as World of Warcraft, 'D&D', and a plethora of films and tv shows. After a few sluggish opening chapters, Finders Keepers challenges the imagination around every corner, and explores the fantasy genre, doing something fresh and new with every page.
The cast at first seems vast, complicated, and difficult to follow, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Often times, a new character would be added to the already large roster, and I was reluctant to take the time to visualize the character. I would move along in the text, but wouldn’t waive too far before backtracking and challenge my mind to put a name with a face. The cast quickly becomes unique, and as the characters’ backstories and arcs are presented, it’s exciting to see what everyone is up to across chapters.
Finders Keepers establishes the world of Faltyr in vast scale, giving a larger sense to what seems like a minor conflict that is the story. The stress put on the characters reveals their conflicts internally and externally, struggles, desires, and romances. What originally seemed like a vast roster of characters quickly slims as conflict erupts, allowing the reader to connect with them better. Time is taken alternating between opposing factions, so that not too much time is spent on one group, and some chapters are divided amongst character conflict within groups. Time is taken to give a mythos to not only the story, but also the world of Faltyr, in a journal reading scene that is a fresh break from the conflict facing the characters. Action scenes are explicitly detailed, and allows the imagination to gain a sense of atmosphere and mood. Character deaths really matter, and increase emotional impact on the story.
Overall, Finders Keepers is worth the read, simply from the challenge it presents to the mind to develop the world and peoples of Faltyr. It makes a lot out of a small conflict with a cornucopia of originality. Please do your self a favor, and check this one out.
-David Brashier; Huntsville, Alabama; January 2016
You can order the novel from Amazon here.