Monday, April 6, 2015

Book Review: One Realm Beyond

Today's book review: One Realm Beyond (Book 1 of the Realm Walkers series) by Donita K Paul

From the "Back of the Book":
"Cantor D’Ahma waited his whole life for this day. Born with a gift to jump between worlds, the young realm walker is finally ready to leave his elderly mentor and accept his role as protector and defender of the realms.

But mere hours after he steps through his first portal, Cantor discovers that his job will be more dangerous and difficult than he ever imagined. The realms are plagued with crime and cruelty, and even members of the once-noble Realm Walkers Guild can no longer be trusted. To make matters worse, his first assignment—finding a dragon to assist him on his quest—has led him to Bridger, who is clearly inept and won’t leave him alone.

With the help of his new friends Bixby and Dukmee, Cantor must uncover the secrets of the corrupt guild before they become too powerful to be stopped. But his skills aren’t progressing as fast as he would like, and as he finds himself deeper and deeper in the guild’s layers of deceit, Cantor struggles to determine where his true allegiance lies."

I've been a Donita K Paul fan since Dragonspell first came out, so I've been looking forward to reading her latest series. The premise is rather interesting, instead of different planets, there are different realms, described as a stack of discs sharing the same orbit. Realm Walkers can see and use portals to go between the worlds. Each Realm has it's own culture, geography, and climate.

Cantor is our main character. He's eager and adventurous, but tends to act and then think. Still, he has a good heart and cares about his friends.

Bixby was my favorite character in the book. She's fun, whimsical, and a tad mysterious. They don't really name her race, but she's short and tiny and described almost like a pixy or elf (the north pole kind.) She's a good counter balance to Cantor, and a lot more knowledgeable about the different realms.

Bridger is Cantor's dragon. Well, everyone but Cantor knows this... more on that in a moment. Bridger reminds me a lot of myself--good at his own talent, but really clumsy and too curious for his own good.

The dragons are always my favorite parts of Paul's books. The dragons in the Realm Walkers series are rather classic fantasy dragon in appearance, and part Pern dragon and part Meech dragon in temperament and intellect.

The story is written on a YA level, and, in my opinion, the characters outshine the plot. There's basically enough plot to give the characters a reason to exist. This might change as the series develops... and that leads me to my (least) favorite fantasy rant. I'll put a minor spoiler alert here. I won't say anything explicit about the plot, but still...

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Why, oh why must EVERY fantasy book I've read lately not have a self-contained story? Just as we get to the climax of the plot... BOOM the book's over. Buy the next book to find out what happens. I don't care that you have to wait six months to a year to find out. Now, don't get me wrong, you want at least one over-arching plot element in a series, but you still want to have your main plot lines wrapped up by the end of the book. This is the reason I bought the box set of The Lord of the Rings, instead of buying one, reading it, then buying the next one... it's one story, not three. Same problem here.
To be fair, Paul does this better than a lot of other authors I've read, but it's still irritating. Especially since Paul's other books aren't written in this style, and do a nice job of balancing book and series plotlines.

Overall, though, the story was enjoyable, and I loved spending time with the characters. Four stars.