Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: The Quest for Nobility, Book 1 (The Rule of Otharia series) by Debra L Martin and David W. Small

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Sometimes, when reading a series, the first installment is all about the buildup, of setting the tone and the world in which the rest of the tale can take place. I know this, because when writing my own series, The Rift, I realized that the first book had almost nothing to do with the next three. Often times, the writing is poles apart from what you find later, as the author grows into his or her (or, in this case, both) style. I say this not meaning the story or the method is bad by any means. But it can be a little irritating.

Thus mentioned, I bring you The Quest for Nobility, book one of The Rule of Otharia series by the writing team of Debra L. Martin and David W. Small.

This is purported to be a science fiction novel. It is, in a way, seeing as much of the action takes place on the aforementioned planet of Otharia. The people on this planet, however, look and act very similarly to you or I (with a couple important differences), and their culture is fashioned after what one might find in sixteenth-century Europe, what with barons, dukes, duchies, a lack of many of the technologies we see everyday, and whatnot. In this way, the book steers far away from science fiction and enters the realm of fantasy. If not for portals opening up to modern-day Earth, one could forget they were on another planet at all.

Most people on this planet are gifted with the three major classifications of psychic abilities: empathy, telekinesis, and telepathy. The society’s royals hone their gifts at institutions, while the layfolk are resigned to letting theirs stagnate. This is typical of caste societies – those in power are afforded every opportunity imaginable, while those on the lower end of the spectrum are not.

Despite their reliance on a ruling class, on Otharia it seems that there has not been a king in many, many years. Now, the ruling dukes have formed what they call The Grand Council, a parliament of sorts. It is this council that votes on all the major decisions that affect the different duchies. It is because of this voting system that there has not been a king in such a long time, which is something that Grand Duke Vodgor is intent on changing. He plots various nefarious schemes, forming an underground political entity, fixing competitions, and clandestinely killing off any rival dukes and duchesses who oppose him (with the help of his deliciously evil psychic assassin Nils), in hopes of somehow convincing the council to appoint him king.

It is during the time these plots are taking place that we meet the three main characters of the story – Dyla and Darius Telkur, twins set to rule after the murder of their parents, and Eclasius Jortac, son of a rival duke. These three, after some problems early on in their relationships, bind themselves together to win the Grand Competition, a yearly competition, in hopes that the money won will save the Telkur duchy.

Things go wrong, very wrong, when they win. A rival team is murdered and Vogdo’s underground group is set to blame the twins for their deaths. Because of this, they are forced to flee, and they decided to go to – you guessed it – Earth. Here they have a few misadventures, meet up with an expert on Stonehenge, and figure out that there seems to be a connection between Otharia and Earth that they hadn’t expected.

All right, enough about the plot. It’s time for some exposition on my part.

I honestly found this book maddening at times, even though it interested me throughout. The dialogue is choppy and robotic, the characters seem too perfect to root for, and there are some seemingly major holes in the timeline. Also, as some might note, it is written in third person omniscient, my disdain of which I have been quite open about. I feel like I must explain this, however. It’s not like I oppose to the use of this point of view; on the contrary, I find it quite entertaining, when done right. There is a quaint beauty to it. The problem is it’s one of the hardest viewpoints to construct correctly in the first place. The writer needs to handle segues between different characters’ thoughts with a certain delicacy that difficult to both explain and execute. I’ve read some that are done well and loved them. If I’m gong to be truthful here, these authors don’t.

As for the timeline gaps: I say this because the order of events seems skewed. When Darius, Dyla, and Eclasius head off to Earth, they are there for four days, five max. However, back on Otharia, it seems as if weeks or even months have passed. This might just have been me missing something, but it still riled me.

I don’t want to be all negative, and I won’t be, because there were many good things about the book, as well. It’s set up in a quirky and fun way, with a segment from various informative texts preceding each chapter as a way of explaining how the rules of this world work. I found these to be among the most interesting components of the book, as they disclose their information in a just-the-facts way. It is a departure from the style of the rest of the book, and it makes these sections stand out, which is a very good thing. The dissimilarities between the Otharians and Earthlings are intriguing, as well. They are painted as superior, in a way, and humans as paranoid deviants. However, we can plainly see through the way the people of Otharia are constantly (and easily) misled that there is something to be said for the paranoia we, as a people, possess. I don’t know if this was an intended statement by the authors, but I very much appreciated it.

Also, the storyline itself is intriguing. I don’t want to give too much away here, but there are links between the planet Otharia and Arthurian legend that make me say, “Yes, please, more.” The end is fantastic, when all the threads that run through the tale are uncovered, and this makes the whole journey – even the irksome parts – worth it. There is potential for the stories down the line that could make this a special experience, and it is with this fact in mind that I say the following…

When thinking about what to rate this book, I gave it two-and-a-half stars. However, I didn’t stop reading until the book was done, and it did stay with me for long after I put it down. That, in itself, is a feat. So I decided to download the sample of book two, titled The Crystal Fa├žade. I’m glad I did. The writing in the second book is ramped up more than a few notches. The story flows much easier. In other words, it looks to be very well constructed. Based on this fact, I say no one should give up on this series. After all, as I said in the beginning, this is an introductory novel. Even Harry Potter was a bit below par in the first couple books, but by the end of the series, it was all made worthwhile.

I have a feeling this particular chain of books could be, as well.

The Quest for Nobility - Kindle edition

Plot - 8

Characters - 5

Voice - 4

Execution - 4

Personal Enjoyment - 4

Overall - 25/50 (2.5/5)


Debra L Martin said...

Thanks Rob for your very informative and helpful review. Both Dave and I appreciate it.

Ronnell D. Porter said...

Oh wOw! I was expecting David's to be the very last review ever by the way you made it sound on KB - I'm glad that I didn't dislodge you from the bookmarked pages! ;)

Robert Duperre said...

Pay attention, Ronnell! Jeez! :-)