Call of the Herald by Brian Rathbone
Call of the Herald by Brian Rathbone is the first book in a young adult epic fantasy series. When Catrin fulfills the prophecy and gains the power of the comet Istra, she becomes the one known as the Herald. Prophesied to bring the downfall of the Zjhon nation, the Zjhon will stop at nothing, not even wiping out the entire population of the Godfist, in order to make sure that does not happen.
I had a lot of high hopes for this book because, while the idea may be a cliche one, it’s a cliche that I love very much. The whole coming into power, prophesies, battle between good and evil… that’s all great stuff. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the beginning, it slowly went down from there, especially when it came to the worldbuilding and magic system.
The grammar/spelling itself wasn’t too bad, I’ve certainly seen much worse, but the phrasing and general flow were, at times, very odd. Some sections were very abrupt while others were filled with flowery prose. The dialogue as well, while not all bad, did seem to be a little stilted and unrealistic at times, especially in interactions with Catrin after she came into her powers. There was also quite a bit of relying on ‘feelings’ and ‘intuition’ to set tone and create some form of suspense (this character had a bad feeling in his/her gut for no reason; this character just knew that this needed to be done even though he/she didn’t know why)
The writing could also be very confusing which ties in with the worldbuilding and plot. While I found the beginning began to lay things out nicely when it came to the lives of Catrin and those around her, it soon all turned chaotic. Once Catrin came into her powers, I expected there to be some more exploration into the prophesy, why the Zjhon were after her, and how her powers worked, but it all seems to be glanced over, like the reader is expected to know it all already. I am still not quite sure what being the Herald means (is it destruction for all, or just the Zjhon?) and could never seem to keep all of the facts straight while reading (Don’t the Zjhon worship Istra? Why would her Herald be a bad thing then? Or did I get that wrong and Istra is their version of the devil?). More so, I thought the magic system needed a lot of work. There was a lot of telling that didn’t match the showing. At one part, it was made a point to emphasize that Catrin’s powers were waning as the comet went further away, and yet she continually gained new powers (which she somehow knew how to use) and seemed to preform feats that were on par with, if not above, magical feats she had previously done. I spent a lot of the novel trying to figure out what was going on, what exactly Catrin’s powers were, and if she was supposed to be a bringer of peace or an omen for the end of the world. I can honestly say that I still don’t know the answers to any of those questions.
The worldbuilding, for me, was what brought down the entire novel. I can see the promise in it, and it could be a really great story, but there are just too many inconsistencies and the writing so very confusing, that it’s just too hard to follow. Outside of that, the plot arc itself was pretty standard and I won’t give too much away in regards to what happens. In all honesty, I couldn’t pay as much attention to the plot as I normally would because I was still trying to figure out what was going on and how things that weren’t tying together were supposed to. I will mention that there was a very clear Lord of the Rings inspired moment that, while I’m not sure was intentional, definitely pulled me out of the book so I could think about in how many ways it was similar.
I found that while some of the characters were well done, others just kind of blended together. I never really liked Catrin (though I can’t put my finger on why), but her father and the farmhand were done well (though the farmhand brings forth more consistency and logic problems – I won’t mention what for fear of spoilers). Her two friends and cousin I had difficulty keeping straight because they didn’t really have enough differences in how they acted or spoke in order to keep them straight. Surprisingly, I felt I knew more about some secondary and tertiary characters in their brief introductions than I did about the main cast. Nat is a character I still haven’t made my mind up about yet (and while confusing, he is at least entertaining) and I did find myself wanting to know more about a later character, Vertook.
So, while the beginning of the novel definitely held a lot of promise, the moment the magic system was introduced everything became chaotic with a lot of inconsistencies. I think I can tell where it was meant to go, and if Catrin is a bringer of worldwide destruction rather than of peace and only a threat to the Zjhon, that would definitely be something different. Especially if she was a reluctant bringer of destruction. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite able to understand exactly what the role of Herald entails and therefore felt mostly confused by the end, though admittedly still curious.
World Building 1.5/5
Entertainment Value: 2/5
Average Overall Rating: 2.1/5
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