Author: J. Keller Ford
Length: 403 pages
Source: Digital Review Copy via the Publisher
Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the realm from the evil lurking nearby.
Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.
Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he's some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He's supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who's too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.
With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.
Protagonists: This book is told in alternating points of view between Eric, a young squire, who after constant coddling sets out to prove himself, and David a boy from a world much like ours who finds out that he holds an immense destiny in Fallhollow. A lot of Eric's character development stems from the fact that Sir Trogsdill, the knight he serves, and all of Trog's friends handle Eric with kid gloves. They are so overprotective of him that at one point in the story he snaps and does whatever he can to show them that he can not only handle himself in the face of danger but succeed. On the whole I rather liked Eric, he could be pig-headed and stubborn but he was still a very likeable character at the end of the day. Then there's David, my biggest problem with David is that he feels like every bad thing that happens around him, even those out of his control are his fault. This is a character trope that I hate above all else. Really it makes for a really annoying character who believes that they should have been in control of not only their actions but the actions of others as well. There is development with him though and hopefully he'll be a bit more levelheaded in future installments.
Romance: So this romance really bugged me. First off while it's not necessarily a pre-established romance as the characters aren't dating prior to the start of the book, they may as well be. Seriously David and Charlotte act like they're dating but never actually call it that. Then when their feelings do come to light David has the world's worst excuse as to why they can't be together. It just felt very contrived and even if David had a good reason for them to not be together, I still couldn't root for them because I never felt that chemistry between them, except for maybe in one scene. The author did a lot of telling instead of showing. Constantly reminding the reader that Charlotte is the love of David's life without really showing us why he fell for her or why he loves her.
World-Building: So I have to admit, the description of this book really confused me to what this story was going to be. From the description I assumed that somehow Eric and David were going to venture out on a quest together and get on each other's nerves before eventually succumbing to friendship and saving the world. That however didn't happen. I'm not mad though, I was just confused since that was the vibe I got from the synopsis. Instead it's almost two stories in one that only truly interconnect near the end. The world of Fallhollow was really interesting, the political intrigue and magic system were particularly interesting. My biggest problem though was the writing. I mean for the most part it was okay, great even, but there were times when things were still a bit rough, things were revealed in such an out of the blue or jarring way, or things were resolved way too quickly. It could just be that I got an earlier version before these rough spots were buffed and polished. Finally there were moments that I felt like I was missing something, even going back in the text to double check that I didn't, which really bothered me.
Predictability: So, there was actually quite a bit about this book that I couldn't predict. In fact other than a few vague things I didn't guess any of the huge shocks in this book. The funny thing though is that the author sort of sets up what's going to be revealed without the actual reveal, leading me to lots of crazy conspiracy theories, and even some way out of left field theories. Though when things are finally revealed most of the time I was shocked that I at least got part of the reveal right. The one thing that bothers me though is that there are things set up, things that I felt were supposed to be revealed in this installment that weren't that sort of bug me since it also feels like they were just dropped from the storyline, and they still bug me.
Ending: So the ending isn't at all what I expected it would be going into this book, though going into this book I hadn't expected David and Eric to meet at the end. So going into the final climax of this book everything was very high intensity and the action and battle started to almost go by too fast. While I understood what was going on there were a few moments that either felt way too convenient or that I wasn't quite sure how something got from point A to point B. When we got to the cooldown period though was when I got the most confused. A character was very certain about one thing that made no sense, I mean I guess it made sense just that there wasn't exactly anything to hint at this thing happening, I'm sorry if I'm confusing you I just want to avoid spoilers whenever possible. Let's just say the ending has some confusing and anti-climactic moments.
So I debated really hard on this rating. On the one hand this story is incredible the world is exciting and rich, on the other though the writing is rough, the romance sadly underdeveloped, and there are just some things that don't quite add up. At the end of the day though I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next installment.