Sunday, October 14, 2018
The Bookwyrm's Review of Exile by Martin Owton
Author: Martin Owton
Length: 286 Pages/ 10 hours, 31 minutes (Audio)
Publisher: Tickety Boo Press
Release Date: April 15, 2016/ April 10, 2018
Narrator: John Pirhalla
Series: The Nandor Tales, Book 1
Genre: Epic Fantasy
This is one of those books I got in a buying spree of kindle books one day, and it just kind of got lost in the shuffle as life interrupted. This is through no fault of the books, only mine. When the audiobook released, I finally got a chance to listen at work, and I am so glad did! Thinking it was going to be some grimdark murder spree, instead, it was an action adventure fantasy quest that immediately grabbed my attention.
Several years ago, the Barony of Darien was invaded by a power hungry Duke. Betrayed by the mercenary soldiers in his employ, the Baron and his retainers are mercilessly slaughtered. All hope is not lost, though, as this heir was away in court at the time. Accompanying him was Aron, the son of the Guard Sergeant, who was off to learn to be a sword master. Now, present day, the Barons heir is living in exile, trying to rally people to his cause, and Aron has finished his training and is working as a caravan guard. After a run in with the local guard captain of Nandor, his most recent stop, who he defeats handily, he comes to the attention of the wife of Nandor's Earl, who is the brains of the leadership. The heir to Nandor was captured on a patrol in disputed land by soldiers of their neighboring Duke, who has nefarious plans for Nandor.
Realizing they can't afford a ransom, she convinces Aron to undertake a rescue of her son, along with a small support team. Traveling to the neighboring duchy in disguise, the team scopes out the castle where the young lord is being held. while the rest of the team, led by the young lords arrogant cousin half heartedly work to come up with something, Aron finds the castle's weakness and executes a solo plan to rescue him. While he does this, the others in his group are captured by the Duke's soldiers. Running with the young Lord, Aron must avoid both the Duchy's soldiers, as well as magical attacks, as he tries to return him to his parents.
Meanwhile, the Earl and his wife have gone to the capitol with a visiting noble they consider a potential match for their oldest daughter. Unbeknownst to them, he works for the Duke that invaded Darien, who is searching for Aron and the rebels against his rule. Reaching the capitol, this plot goes in so many different directions, as Aron and his charge also reach the capitol, but are unable to immediately reunite with the Nandorans. The consequences of that are felt throughout the rest of the book as they lead to a final showdown with Aron at the center of events much larger than he is, where he must survive a trap that can end the hopes of so many people, including the women he has come to care for too much.
Like a lot of books I have read lately, this one is definitely character driven. Aron is such a good character. A master swordsman, he is determined to do what is best for his lost country, no matter what. He has some flaws, including overconfidence that can get him in trouble, but he is a very sympathetic character. The side characters are also well drawn out, from the Earl of Nandor's casual laziness and drunkenness, to his wife's dedication to duty, and doing anything she can to keep the Earldom solvent. The villains are some of the best I have read recently, especially Aron's main nemesis. That such a sadist could operate with such a genteel mask. Just great characters overall. The settings are great as well, with Nandor really standing out in my mind as a great setting. Just kind of a rural provincial capitol, kind of down on its luck. There are a couple subplots I didn't get into, but going into detail would have spoiled a bit too much of the story. Needless to say, they add depth and color to the already excellent story.
The narration was ably handled by John Pirhalla. I have several other audiobooks he narrated, and enjoyed them, but this is his best work so far, in my opinion. He really has a flair for character voices, and brings them all to life. HIs narrative pacing is excellent, never becoming monotonous or dragging. All in all, an excellent job on the narration.
This book definitely has a lot of appeal for numerous readers. It has action, intrigue, adventure, evil villains, great fight scenes, of which Aron really shines in. There is even a touch of romance for those into that aspect, although it fits into the story organically. Definitely a must read for fantasy fans.