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Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn

Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn

Children of Fire
by Drew Karpyshyn

Children of Fire

By: Drew Karpyshyn

Release Date: August 27, 2013

Rating: 3 stars

Summary:

Drew Karpyshyn has made his mark with imaginative, action-packed work on several acclaimed videogames, including Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, as well as in a succession of New York Times bestselling tie-in novels. Now Karpyshyn introduces a brilliantly innovative epic fantasy of perilous quests, tormented heroes, and darkest sorcery—a thrilling adventure that vaults him into the company of such authors as Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson, and Peter V. Brett.

Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create.

Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king.

Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.

 

Review:

Children of Fire is, in every way, pure popcorn fantasy. In other words, I think anyone coming into this expecting the kind of high concept epic featuring complex, iconic characters, groundbreaking uses of magic, or uniquely compelling world building is setting themselves up for disappointment, because to be honest, Drew Karpyshyn’s first foray into original material is mostly a retread of familiar ground. But that said, I do think this is still a book that has plenty of merit as a compulsively readable, wildly entertaining retread, because even though the fantasy elements are simplistic stereotypes and cliches, in this case, it’s not a bad thing at all, because Karpyshyn has done an excellent job putting them together in a way that’s easily accessible, but more importantly, interesting and engaging.

What makes the book for me is definitely the almost cinematic quality of the storytelling. As anyone who’s for example both read Lord of the Rings and watched Peter Jackson’s movies would know, watching the movies is a completely different experience from reading the books. And while most fantasy books aim to replicate that heavy, voluminous feel of Tolkien’s books (and Karpyshyn even cites Tolkien as one of his influences), Children of Fire is the exception that, with its simpler storyline and plenty of cinematic action sequences, feels more like watching the movie adaption, or maybe one of those old sword and sorcery TV shows. So although the setup involves nothing but generic fantasy stereotypes and nothing in Children of Fire screams unique or different from every other fantasy out there – even if Karpyshyn calls his elves (and they obviously are the generic woodland dwelling elder race everybody else calls elves) the Danaan – none of it really mattered for me because Children of Fire is a different, yet nonetheless enjoyable, reading experience from the typical fantasy. For me, the point of this book really wasn’t to build a complex fantasy world or to create an immersive cast of scheming, backstabbing characters, but just to follow a group of characters on a very simple quest of good versus evil while being entertained by the gobs of addictive action sequences along the way – and I was definitely entertained; it really is addictive.

The other aspect I really liked is that while following these various children of fire through their quests to save the world (and the passage of time is something I think Karpyshyn does well and makes the book feel more epic), he never resorts to the same old black and white characters that can really sink these kinds of books. Of course, there’s this demon character the Slayer who’s been imprisoned in an alternate dimension for eons and planning his revenge now that the barrier between the worlds has been weakened (sounds like a Buffy plot, no?), but the other characters never predictably fall into one category or the other. For example, there’s the Pontiff and his Order of anti-magic fanatics dedicated to stopping the Slayer by whatever means necessary, but while the sorcerer characters like Rexol perceive them as evil based on what they do, they consider themselves good, and you know, their eventual actions go both ways (plus, who doesn’t like reading about badass blind monks?). Even Rexol and the Danaan Queen Rianna, they have an understandable goal and course of action that helps and hinders the various children, but they can’t be said to be doing what they do because they’re ‘good’ or ‘evil’, and that ambiguity in the characters really makes up for the genericness of the plot and setting.

Still, in addition to the setup I did have one other problem with the book. Like I said, I thought the way Karpyshyn handled the passage of time from the birth of the children to their quest to save the world, over a period of years, was definitely a strong point of the book, but I really feel there may have been a few more coincidences in the book than necessary. The various intertwining storylines was definitely a great idea and a huge part of what makes the book work, but while many of them, like Cassandra being Rexol’s first apprentice followed by Keegan as his second, are understandable and in retrospect pretty cool, others, like the whole storyline with Scythe, felt really contrived. In fact, I’m not really sure of Scythe’s role in the story – is she even one of them? – and her inclusion feels more like a plot contrivance so we end with a party consisting of a warrior, a mage, a monk, and a rogue than anything else.

Overall though, while Children of Fire is a lot simpler than most fantasies, I think Drew Karpyshyn has made it simpler in a way that also makes it accessible to many first time or reluctant fantasy readers. Even better, I personally read a lot of fantasy and still found the story, despite its flaws, incredibly addictive, precisely because this is a book that makes the stereotypes work.

Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.

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