Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Bookwyrm's Review of The Headlock of Destiny


Author: Samuel Gately

Length: 344 Pages

Publisher: Cylinder Publishing

Release Date: March 5, 2020

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Amazon Link

Growing up, I was kind of a shy, introverted kid. I did have two interests though, more than any others. I loved reading fantasy/sci-fi books, and I loved watching pro wrestling. When I saw the premise of  The Headlock of Destiny, a mashup of fantasy and wrestling, I knew I had to review it. Here are the happy results of my read through.

PLOT SUMMARY

The Open Nations in the past were wracked with chaos during the Titan Wars, wars humans fought against the descendants of the giants, known as Titans, or Ten-Men (because each was as  strong as ten men). The Titans now fight for their respective nations in organized wrestling matches that are now the biggest entertainment in the world. Titans like The Savage, Scott Flawless, King Thad, and Earthshaker are larger than life celebrities, performing matches throughout the Open nations, where once their ancestors had terrorized the humans. Since Titans can breed with just about anything, there are some pretty odd Titans as well. The best wrestlers from each of the nations compete in the biggest tournament of them all, the Headlock of Destiny, where fame, fortune and advantage for their countries await.

In the brewery village of Clearwater, there lives a titan named Van. He's not a wrestler. Instead, he works in the local beer brewery warehouse, hauling barrels and doing other manual labor. When his country's best shot at the Headlock of Destiny title, Owen Grit,  is unexpectedly hurt in a match, the search is on for a replacement. Spotted in the crowd at the annual beer festival by a mysterious woman named Kyle, Van is drawn into this world of high stakes, nation affecting wrestling, as he becomes his nations best and only chance at the title. Given the option to compete or be fired and basically exiled, Van find himself swept up into events way beyond his pay grade.

With no help from his team, including Owen, Van must basically wing it at the tournament. Expected to lose his first match against the bestial titan The Ram, Van does surprisingly well,  moving on to the next round to face Panem Manley. It turns out hauling 250 pound kegs of beer all day builds a lot of muscle, and while Van doesn't have much technique, he does have a lot of brute strength and a stubborn streak a mile wide. As he continues deeper into the tournament, he has to deal with the machinations of other nation's wrestlers and even the tournament promoter, who definitely wants to see his nation at a disadvantage. Kyle does what she can for Van behind the scenes, working to help keep him safe from the very real threats to his life.

There seems to be something exceptionally weird at this years tounament, as the Nether, the unnatural other realm where the undead live, have sent a representative to the tounament. This Titan is called The Overlord, and he takes his defeated opponents, puts them in a coffin, and drags them to the portal to the Nether, not to be seen again. This is just another complication Van has to deal with as he gets closer to the finals, where Van would be tested like never before, with the fate of nations riding on his shoulders, and the reigning champion, King Thad, standing in his way.

CHARACTERS AND WORLD BUILDING

You would think a book about wrestling titans would have fairly cartoonish, two dimensional characters. Well, you'd be mistaken. The characters can be a bit cartoonish in their wrestling personas, but they have surprisingly deep wells of personality and motivations. Van is a complex character, riddled with self doubt and loathing, only to realize he has more to offer the world and finding internal strength. The various characters have some surprising motivations for their actions, and are not the caricatures you would expect. You can easily get behind Van as he progresses, and be appalled at some of the villains as they work their various plans to fruition.

The world building, aside from the special aspects dealing with the wrestling, which in this case is not scripted or fake, is fairly standard fantasy realm type of stuff. Humans, elves, dwarves, halflings and what have you are all included, with the Titans being the unique addition to the mix. With what amounts to a bunch of small nations with an outside threat in the Nether, every nations is not particularly fleshed out, but the main settings of the book do get some attention, giving you an idea of the settings. Definitely an interesting fantasy setting to dig into.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Taking two premises that shouldn't work together, Samuel Gately instead takes the more fantastical elements of both, stirs them up, and makes an entertaining story that keeps the reader turning pages. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel to see what fate has in store for Van and his allies. I think this book has something for fantasy fans to enjoy, and even wrestling fans who aren't into fantasy may enjoy the story.


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