Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Review: Egnitheos (Nicole Kasprzynski)



Alastair just wants to see his mother again. When she disappears, he waits anxiously for her to fulfill her promise to come back for him. While living surrounded by a culture of false gods and idols, Alastair encounters a God that towers above any idol of stone or metal, and it changes his life forever. More often than not in ways even Alastair isn’t sure he’s ready for.

The plot moves steadily, following Alastair’s journey as he searches for his mother. It expands greatly, and he instead finds fellow men and women who help him grow in his newfound faith. But even this hidden place of worship of the true God is overshadowed by threat, one that also holds the strings to Alastair’s own quest. Egnitheos is a journey of faith, forgiveness, and overcoming fears when strengthened by God. The themes are woven into scenes that vary between being fast-paced/intense and scenes that are a little slower in pace, but either side of the coin carries the force of the message well. While a couple scenes felt a little disjointed coupled together, they both carry a similar message, and they do it well. There’s a good balance of action to keep the characters on their toes, and readers turning pages, while also pauses to recover and time to reflect.

The description in the book shows off the world beautifully as we follow Alastair through it. The settings are beautiful and diverse, with their own cultures within them, such as Polish elves who live on an island and dark-skinned shapeshifters who hail from the desert. The narrative also appeals to the senses, describing smells, the feel of things, or the sounds. It makes the world come alive in the mind’s eye when it touches on the basic senses.

While Egnitheos is a story in which we follow Alastair’s journey to find his mother, it’s also a story in which we follow his spiritual journey, and the growth there. His arc isn’t an instant change. Instead, it’s realistic and gradual. Alastair comes from a priestly family that worships false gods, and he’s been a part of that for twelve years, despite his mother’s teachings that counter that of the family. He’s been brought up in that culture, and so he struggles to move away from that perspective. It was good to see it as a learning experience for him, instead of him up and changing his ways instantly. Like anyone in similar situations to his, Alastair had to grow into his new faith and adjust. His arc is one many readers could relate to, perhaps, making him feel more real.

Another thing about Alastair that I liked is that he’s a little shy and timid. It’s evident right away, but a little part of that stays with him even as he progresses through his arc. Sometimes he doesn’t feel confident at all. But he does what needs doing anyway. He doesn’t have to be outgoing and bold to carry the story. His strength in the face of his biggest fears carries us along in the story as he meets each challenge. Even when he’s not 100% confident, he often chooses to act without thinking of the cost to himself, or when he’s aware of the high risk of fear involved.

The villains are also well done. Jaegar, the presiding “alpha” villain, is essentially a representation of Satan, and as such, he’s very twisted and manipulative, but also dark and intimidating. He doesn’t have to do anything. Being in the room brings enough fear and darkness.

Another villain, Simperer, is also well written. He’s a peculiar man, with quirks that seem to make his sadistic torture all the more twisted. While he is under Jaegar’s influence, he’s evil in his own right, too, and that makes him even more dangerous. But on the flip side, we hear little snatches of another side of him that can make us think… I’ll let you figure that out. ;)

Other characters have their own smaller arcs. Tinsley and Lajh have arcs in forgiveness, on different levels. While theirs aren’t as vast as Alastair’s, they are no less important or powerful. They add to the weave of themes and growth the cast undergo, as well as facing their own fears. It’s interesting how while they and Alastair seem to have their own areas of growth, they also share each other’s too in some ways.

One of my favorite elements of Egnitheos (if the above hadn’t already clued you in on how much I enjoyed the book ;) ) is how diverse and colorful the cast of characters are. They come from all walks of life and all cultures, and one way that’s shown is through their voice, the accents they speak, like Breindel or Tinsley. It adds vibrancy and color to their personalities. All of the characters come from many different walks of life, too, and their own cultures and habits lend to their personalities, and make them more real to readers.

But also, in general, their personalities are just so vast from each other, you often don’t get the same personality twice. Alastair is a little timid, but can be determined. Lajh (one of my favorites) is a cocky flirt. Steffen and his son Ziven may be slightly similar, but Ziven has more passion than his father. Bri is soft-spoken but spunky. And Tinsley… well, she’s a wild, dangerous personality with an innocent, childlike charm all her own. ;)

And, without, spoiling (heaven forbid I spoil this book for anyone), I’ll also add that the climax is a beautiful display of good vs. evil, and a powerful moment of Alastair’s arc.

And that is all I will say. ;)

*****

Violence/gore: There is a fair amount of violence, and blood, but it’s not described in close detail. Torture scenes are present later in the book (for any who may feel uneasy about that kind of thing).

Profanity: Only referenced swearing.

Sexual content: None, really. A few characters share simple kisses.

Other: Wine is drunk. Demons, or Vrag, make up the majority of antagonists that Alastair encounters, so we see them appear and attempt to stop Alastair. There’s also a sorcerer or two who can summon up the Vrag (not including Jaegar, who is a Vrag himself), and have darker, more sinister powers.

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