During an assassination attempt, Prince Kythes of Androv is attacked by General Wreygroth. The general is in charge of Kythes’ father’s armies, as well as the safety of his kingdom and Kythes himself. Wreygroth is a man Kythes has always trusted, but now he he has the general’s knife at his throat. Kythes is fortunately saved by a plucky young fighter from the market, Amelia, who easily kills the general and saves Kythes’ life. In recognition of this great act of bravery, Kythes appoints Amelia to replace the traitor and become the new General of Androv. Days later, there is a second attack, but this time the target isn’t the prince; instead, it’s Kythe’s father, King Thaseon himself.
Upon his father’s death, Kythes is now king of a people who have lost both their king and general in less than a month. However, Kythes is stepping down from the throne, though he intends to retain the title of King, as he decides that he and he alone must avenge his father. Taking his kingdom’s general with him, Kythes leaves the lord of a neighboring land in charge of his kingdom and rides off into adventure.
Meanwhile, Xaquara, the immortal and powerful Archon, has taken her own party to examine the growing darkness in the northern lands where shadows walk and monsters wake. The answers she finds are even more alarming, as it seems both that an ancient evil has awakened, and that the heavens themselves are divided between those who believe and those who refuse to listen.
Rise to Dust, the first volume in the Rise to Dust series, is a debut work and it shows. The characters feel based off of traditional role playing games (the rogue, Luana; the fighter, Amelia; the mage, Xaqara; etc) whose personalities default to good-humored, good-natured, and plain old Good. The villains have names like Malucius, an evil king is called The Tyrant, and the evil threat is the Shade, fighting against the holy light of the Heavens. The plot beats feel well-worn and familiar, with the grand quest and the Company of True Companions who know one another’s thoughts, laugh at each other’s jokes, and have each other’s backs. And that’s part of the problem. Many interactions between the characters are established in either tropes or stereotypes — the boys go hunting while the girls sit around the campfire; everyone’s astonished that a girl can drink or use a knife — so much so that when the anachronisms show up (when the rogue is doing keg stands in the tavern), it stands out all the more. No one has much of a personality beyond their skills with weapons, and there is no subtlety to anyone or anything.
The book also reads very stiff and awkward, with a passive writing style that keeps the story at arm’s length, and the characters even further away. This, combined with the adverb and adjective heavy way of storytelling, gives a very heavy-handed tell-don’t-show flavor to the book. You will never doubt someone’s motivations, how they like their tea, what they think of another person, or what a laugh might mean, because it’s laid out in front of you. There are also some very confusing word choices, such as: Ethraea looked intriguingly at Amelia with her full attention or It was not long before Luana’s loquaciousness became perpetually apparent. Throughout the book, there are sentences like this where the wording doesn’t quite work, or where it feels like the wrong word was used. Again and again, I had to pause to try to decipher the intent separate from the prose.
And then there’s the author’s style choice with dialogue. It didn’t work for me on any level. It felt clumsy, backwards, and with the elaborate word choices, I honestly didn’t find it a pleasure to read:
At this she finally stabled to return, “Not feeling anything. It’s too much like being back in the Tangle.” […]
Ureaus inserted, “No one to care for.”
Luana looked into his eyes at this statement, then softly placed, “No one to fight for. I’m glad I found that here.”
There are also a scattering of copy errors, a few tense shifts, and missing possessives and punctuation. However, every now and then there’s a truly nice bit of writing and character potential:
Amelia was frustrated that so much thought was put into this bed and not her people. But when she sat on it, she lost her annoyance at the bed and became mad at herself for loving it so much.
Unfortunately, I honestly can’t recommend this book. Again, this is both a debut novel and the first entry in a series, so there’s always the hope that the author and I will find a greater rapport in some future work.