Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Review: The Supreme Warrior by John Viril

This one here is one of the heavier high fantasy reads out there. It is a book for those who care about tactics and politics. As a lover of Sun Tzu's The Art of War I found it particularly interesting.


About the Book:

My initial thought when I saw the title of this book was that it must be inspired by Sun Tzu. I said as much to the author and I thought I'd share the answer he gave me to this:

"Yes, I have read Sun Tzu. I also used a Japanese work called "The Sword and the Mind" as background material. I also lean heavily on Hans Delbruk's four part treatise "History of the Art of War", von Clauswitz's "On War", and my own ideas about the behavioral underpinnings behind warfare based on sociobiology.

In order to convey the "warrior-culture" of this society, I start each chapter heading with a quote from one of its influential philosophical works (which reflect my ideas about warfare and the nature of government). These quotes generally apply to the chapter in question and are indeed intended to sound Sun Tzuish.

My "writer's conceit" is that this book is sort of a training manual from a later time using my hero's life as a practical example of how theory applies to actual practice. I think of it as sort of a combination of Sun Tzu with Plutarch.
" - John Viril on the Supreme Warrior

The Supreme Warrior
by John Viril
Published by Virile Books, 2012
335 pages
Buy links: Kindle | Paperback

The Supreme Warrior is a curious little thing for me. In some ways it felt almost like a less innocent version of The Hobbit. It is not because the two books are that much alike, truly... There are just some elements that causes a resemblance. I happen to know that The Hobbit was the book that opened John Viril's heart to fantasy, and I think that that is clearly evident in this book. And this is only a good thing, mind you!

The author himself labeled this book as "an Epic Fantasy paced like a political thriller" and that is pretty much what it is. I have to say that, despite its minor deficiencies, this is an excellent debut novel. I greatly enjoyed every minute of it.

Of course it is not really fair to compare an upcoming indie author to the massive rock that is Tolkien (the foundation upon which most modern high fantasy is built), but I guess I am not a very fair person because I am going to do it anyway. The aspect that reminded me most of The Hobbit was the structure. In its essence this is an adventure novel too, I think.

The main character, Calidon, sets out with a firm destination in mind, yet he does not seem to be completely clear on how he is to get there, he just follows his companions. Underway he discovers things that had previously been hidden to him and his kin, he travels through many interesting places before finally reaching the end destination; most intriguingly the forest where the norns live and the last functioning dwarf realm.

The language is quite good, though it could have used a few extra read-throughs. I noticed a few rather unfortunate mistakes; the worst one being a misplaced name, causing one character to talk about himself in a situation where he was not present(!) - needless to say it took me a while to realise what was up and down in that scene after that. Also, John Viril has a very annoying way of setting up dialogue, breaking up the lines so you think a new person is talking while it is actually still the same. That also really disturbed my conprehension of what was going on until I got used to it about halfway through the book.

While John Viril does not share Tolkien's superior narrative style, he does put some other interesting elements on the table. I really enjoyed the fact that I had to use my brain a little to be able to keep up, for example. Also, that political thriller pacing probably helped a lot as there were no longwinded wandering along a dark and lonely path scenes.

I thought the universe was very interesting. There was not a lot of new under the sun, but he did manage to angle things nicely to make the world become his own. I especially loved the dwarfs and the norns, whom I mentioned already. I fell in love with both races on the spot. The norns, in particular, play an interesting role in the story! - I will say no more in fear of spoiling things for potential readers.

The characters were good and interesting, albeit not very original; they have all been seen before in other stories in one form or another. They were not the main attraction of the story for me. In fact I don't really feel like I know them very well. Even the main character seems a bit vague to me. We could easily have delved a bit deeper into them with great success.

This also prevented me from feeling any true impact from the things that happed. Of course I got a bit sad when one of the dearer characters died just when things were getting interesting, but I shed no tears for I did not know the person in question well enough (not that I usually cry a lot when reading, but I usually do have stronger reactions), which was a shame.

One thing I really did love was the quotes in the beginning of each chapter. That really created a wonderful feel of that training manual, though I think that this element could have been stronger implemented in the body of the story. Still, I think this part makes up for what it lacks in other departments. In a training manual type of story I guess you don't techinically need a heavy focus on characters since they are not the sustaining element - it would just have been an added bonus.

As for the ending, I have a bit of a divided opinion about it. There are a lot of loose ends that I am itching to get some closure on. I kind of need the "back again" in the "there and back again" for me to feel that the story has been fulfilled. I does not necessarily have to be a physical "back again" - it could be more in the terms of society going back to an equal or higher level of stability than where the it started. This story leaves off at a point where there is absolutely no stability. It is not an ending but a beginning to an even greater tale.

Luckily the author has declared that: "The book is intended for a sequel. I haven't plotted it yet, and a sequel to Warrior is behind a couple of other book ideas. However, I have a very definite direction I want to go with Warrior."

My only plead then is that he please, please go through with those plans! For the sake of the greater consistency of the work! In truth, I am only giving this book four stars under the premises that there will be a sequel. It is a great first book in an epic series.

I will not compare The Supreme Warrior to George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (well okay, obviously I am about to) because they are not at all on the same scale. I just think that there were elements here that reminded me slightly of that massively popular series. Of course, this can go anywhere from here (except that I already know a bit about where this might be headed), but I say there is potential here!

Now, someone give this man a proper editor! :P (and this would be the first time I write a review with a smiley in it - must be all this Sun Tzu-ish war-stuff that is making me eerily happy). I should just shut up and let you go about buying the book.

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