First and foremost, the disclaimers:
Throughout this review, you’ll see me refer to David Eddings’ series. The Belgariad. I grew up on David Eddings, reading and re-reading his Belgariad and Malloreon series all through grade school and high school, so I’m quite familiar with them. This book reminds me very strongly of the Belgariad series, so be prepared to see Belgariad mentioned a few times below. Now, on to the review.
First, what bothered me.
My first issue has me straddling the 3 and 4 star rating (if I could, this would be a 3.5 star). It was the romance between two main characters, Barrett and I’ll leave the other nameless so I don’t totally ruin it, in case you don’t see it coming. Barrett is supposedly 24 years old in this book, and I totally ate up that fact until the budding romance started. I would peg these two characters, based on romance alone, to be more young teen. It’s a little childish. It reminded me of the Belgariad romance, but the Belgariad fit better since the main character was like 13 or 14 when the romance started. Of course, as I complain about nearly every book I read, the romance started too soon, mere weeks after meeting. I just have a hard time swallowing such fast paced love. Flirting? Absolutely! Kissing? Sure! Fooling around? Why not. Undying love and marriage? Hold your horses. I need to work up to that. So, there you have it. I was annoyed by the romance. Is there any book I’ve read where I could handle the romance? Ummm...the Belgariad....and only the Belgariad. Not because I enjoyed their courtship (I actually didn’t), but because I understood it. It took quite a bit of time and then after they married, there were a boat load of problems to work through. It wasn’t so clean cut. Not that The Protector didn’t have a few ups and downs, but it seemed fake at times.
Secondly, every great once in a while the humor felt a little forced, like I should have been laughing when I wasn’t. It’s damn hard to get me to laugh aloud. I mean, really hard. I didn’t do it with this book, though it wrestled a few smiles out of me. Still, sometimes I felt a little guilty when I wasn’t smiling.
Now, on to the fun stuff.
What I enjoyed about this book was how it felt like I was on the journey with the group of characters. Not a lot of time was skipped, and when it was it was a few short days of travel here and there. It kept me tied into the story. Much like the Belgariad, they traveled from place to place and had a good set of adventures along the way. The pace was well thought out and kept me interested. After all, I read it in one sitting.
For those of you who are die-hard map followers, be prepared. They travel a lot with no map for you to reference. I’m a map glancer. I take a look at it and then dive right in. I rarely ever look back. Take heart, though. This book didn’t lose me. Like I said, I was along on the journey and never felt lost. We moved from kingdom to kingdom in an orderly, well thought out manner.
The settings were wonderfully described. I hate long, drawn out descriptions, but Mr. Matthews was able to give me plenty of information to keep me in the story without boring me to tears. Yay! Smells, sights, and sounds were alive. I really did feel like I was there.
The world was well thought out. The races and kingdoms weren’t crammed down my throat in the beginning, trying to immerse me immediately. Mr. Matthews eased me into the history through dialog and stories. It prevented me from feeling like I was in history class listening to the droning voice of a professor. And it didn’t even rely on a prologue! Yay!
The story itself is light, which agains remind me of the Belgariad series. Stuff happens, some not so pleasant, but the vibe is upbeat and the characters joke among each other with regularity. It gave the book a carefree feeling, but that did drain the tension from some scenes.
Quite a few of the characters I could exchange with those in the Belgariad books and the stories would still flow effortlessly. One character in particular hit very close to Pol. Funny thing, I didn’t really latch on to any one character. But I didn’t in Belgariad either. That’s very odd for me. If I don’t latch on to someone, I usually don’t like the book. But like the Belgariad, the characters had their quirks and the story was enjoyable enough to make up for the lack of my whole investment. Tylor was my absolute favorite though. His sense of humor was awesome and his abilities were incredibly fun to read about.
Please note, this is not a dark book. This is not a horribly traumatized cast of characters. This is a very clean cut fantasy. It is a break from the dark books out there and has a completely followable plot.
So, you might be wondering why, especially for a character driven reader such as myself, I would award this book four stars. What tipped it for me was because of the nostalgia it brought. I was young again, enjoying a story that didn’t hurt my brain, sitting astride a horse while gazing at what they saw and listening to their conversations. It was a break from reality and a quick little adventure.
Would I read it again? Probably not. Will I buy the second book? Absolutely.
So there you have it. My ramblings are done.