Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Review: Heir to Power

Heir to Power by Michele Poague
Book Review by Joey Smith

Purchase on Amazon
Please visit the author's website

Kairma knelt on one knee and held the Crystal to her breast. "I am Kairma, heir and guardian of the Healing Crystal. My lord of this mountain, I bring the Crystal to you, that you may heal us."
Sitting cross-legged before the statue, she place the Crystal on the ground in front of her and looked up at the colony. Her voice cracked with nervousness as she said, "I am your Healer. Bring to me your sick and weary that I may heal them."
Trep was astounded. Can it really be the mythological Star of Genesis! I didn't believe it really existed! So that's what they're hiding.
This book somewhat took me by surprise. For the first 30 pages or so, I had a lot of difficulty getting myself into the story - but, as the story developed, I grew more accustomed to the the kind of story being told as well as the vehicle being used to deliver it. By the middle of the book I was able to at least enjoy the tale on its own merits, and it actually had a decent finish considering the fact that it's the first volume in a planned trilogy. However, there were a few things that contributed to my inital difficulty that I think deserve mention here.
First, typographical and grammatical errors. There were quite a few more of these than I normally expect to find in a published book. However, inside the front cover, there was a note from the author mentioning that after the first printing, (some portion of) these errors had been noticed, and corrected files had been sent to the publisher. However, since the printing I recieved was prior to these corrections, I just can't be sure how many of them were caught and fixed - and, as I mentioned in my review of Starscout Rising, I find these kinds of error incredibly jarring and destructive to the suspension of disbelief that is the hallmark of a truly great read.
Second, the selection of names for major characters, devices, and objects was - in my opinion - poorly done, creating a sort of "vowel soup" for long stretches of text. It resulted in my having to stop and read the words, instead of having them just flow in with the story, each time they came up in the text. Others might not have the same degree of trouble with it I did, but when I hit page 303 and the text still didn't flow when I came across the names of major characters, it just left me feeling a bit frustrated.
Third, the choice of Kairma as the primary protagonist. I never really connected with her character emotionally. I've had some difficulty putting my finger on the exact cause - I don't know if it's just because she's a teenage girl and so I don't have enough of a shared experience, or what may be going on there - but if you don't invest in the protagonist it makes it difficult to really immerse yourself in the story.
Those things being said, there's an enjoyable story here. I've probably read a hundred books that could be classified in the same sort of post-apocalyptic genre, and this one definitely had some fresh ideas on the matter. The colony of the Survin had more than its share of vibrantly painted characters, and there were few moustache-twisting outright "villains" - pretty much everyone had a legitimate motive or reason for doing the things they did, even when those actions led to disaster for others.
In the final analysis, I would say this is a lukewarm first entry in the planned trilogy of "The Healing Crystal" - it sets up the framework for what I imagine will be an enjoyable ride through the process of rebuilding human society and technology from the brink of ruin. The characters are fully-realized individuals, which is not a common trait to find in the work of a freshman writer, and the hiccups are fairly minor and certainly resolvable. The balance between science fiction, fantasy, and a high-adventure western is well-maintained throughout, and I expect to be hearing the name Michele Poague more as her talent continues to develop.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this novel for review, but this did not influence my opinion.

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