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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Phoenix Prince: A Review

Recently, a very dear friend of mine finally published a book.  I still have on my computer the first two original chapters of that book, and comparing them she came a long way.  The book is "The Phoenix Prince" by Kristen Gupton.  It is available for purchase here, and for only $3 I can't think of a better investment.

*EDIT*: Apparently after I posted this, Kristen has now made the book available for purchase also at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.  Now you can download it straight to your Kindle or Nook, so you have no excuse not to get it!

The review after the jump!

Okay, so first, who would like this book?  And I can honestly say almost anyone.  There is some language flying around occasionally, but nothing really offensive or course.  I would say older teens to adults.  Most kids would probably find it a bit boring, but I doubt that was a target audience at any point.

If you like your vampires to be monsters and not glittery pretty boys, I have good news for you!  This book establishes that vampires are monsters and not very nice people.  The main character Keiran Sipesh is bitten and cursed with vampirism as a child, but as long as he doesn't drink human blood he won't turn into a full on undead vampire.  Which I thought was kind of a nice touch, since it would be pretty boring to read about him starting as a powerful vampire.

Which leads into the first thing I liked about this book.  Goals/obstacles and likability.  These are quite possibly two of the most important things you have to establish about your main character.  If the character doesn't have goals and some obstacle in the way of achieving said goal, it's not really going to keep my interest.  Following that then, if the character isn't likable, I'm not going to care that he has goals and obstacles cause I'm going to want him to fail cause I don't like him.  Like in "The Hobbit" and Bilbo is stuck in the caves and Gollum is coming after him.  You care that he might get eaten by Gollum because he is a likable character.  And you want to keep reading to find out if he escapes. 

Kristen succeeds marvelously in that regard.  Keiran actually has multiple goals and obstacles; the main two being his need to drink human blood and his desire not to become a monster and his becoming king and leading the kingdom into a better situation and the evil grand Councillor Peirtre (whose name I'm not sure how to pronounce).  And I always picture him looking like this:
Yessss...nothing evil here...nope.
So there are goals and obstacles.  Check.  It makes for pretty compelling reading.  I stayed up pretty late a couple of nights cause I was so close to finishing and I wanted to find out what happened next.

But that doesn't matter if Keiran isn't likable.  Luckily, he is.  Kristen did a great job of portraying a normal person who doesn't really want any of what is being thrust upon him.  She establishes early on that the old king didn't really let Keiran be active in politics, so as a political figure he is rather unsure of himself.  Same old king doesn't let him drink human blood when he was supposed to, so he also has to deal with the fact he is wasting away due to lack of blood.

Here was one of my favorite things.  As soon as the old king died, Keiran still didn't want to drink human blood.  He would rather slowly waste away in the hopes that maybe he just doesn't need it then cross that line.  And he still refuses to do so until he is forced to.  And that is good story-telling, because again it helps limit the character.  And limitations are good because no one wants to read about characters that just magically can do everything and solve's boring.

And the supporting cast is all fairly well fleshed out as well.  His best friend, his surrogate mother and father, the love interest and the vampire that turned him all get equal attention and are given goals and obstacles as well.  Which means that when they show up, you are genuinely interested in what they have to say and how it advances either Keiran's goals or their own.  Next to the main character, the supporting cast has to also have those qualities, because nothing will kill my interest faster then boring or useless support characters.

All this, of course, goes towards building a strong and believable world for Kristen's characters to live in.  This also helps keep the book interesting.  She depicts a fairly stereotypical fantasy medieval world, but the strength of her characters helps overshadow that.  And really, there isn't anything particularly necessary about building some sort of crazy epic world of sword and sorcery.  I personally like the "low magic" flavor she brings to the table here.  I like it when magic is sparse and...well...magical.

Another nice touch is that there are mysteries in her world.  Several are introduced in this book with no real answer.  This of course makes you all the more interested in the next book.  You want to find out what happens next to Keiran and his friends.  You want to know if the evil vampire lord that turned him will succeed in his evil schemes, or even just to find out if he is really as evil as he seems.  One thing that I will have to wait and see is that in the Prologue Keiran's older sister is taken by the vampire.  I'm really hoping that is going to turn into something later on down the road, and I'm sure it will.

Story and plot-wise, the book is good.  As I mentioned, I was definitely trying to finish quickly to help see what happened next.  I will say the only negative was that some of the chapters had things in them that I thought slowed the story down just a little too much.  And there was one point where I did just want it to hurry up and finish so I could get back to the action (this was near the end though, so I suppose it could be forgiven).  Those little things aside though, Kristen weaved a tale that certainly captured my interest and kept me invested in the characters and story.

That all being said then, I would definitely recommend this book.  As I said before, it's only $3 and is a fantastic deal at that price.  Also as I said before you can buy it here, or at Amazon or Barnes and Nobles  You can purchase it in a variety of formats, which is also another giant plus.  I bought the kindle version, and it worked fine.  I really cannot wait for the next book to come out, and I really cannot wait to see what happens with the characters!

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