Title & Author: The Kalarthri (The Way to Freedom, Book 1), by H.M. Clarke
Genre & Publication Date: Fantasy, 12/13/2013
Book Description: “”This Hatar Kalar has more natural Talent than any Second Born found in the Empire.”
Every ten years the Imperium Provosts travel the provinces of the Great Suene Empire and take every second born child as the property of the Emperor. His Due for their continued protection.
Kalena, taken from her family and friends finds herself alone and scared in the imperial Stronghold of Darkon. And when she cries out to the darkness for help, Kalena is shocked when it answers her back.
If you found out that you were different from everyone else, what would you do?”
First Line: Today was a special day.
My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.
This is a great example of a middle-grade novel in a fantasy setting. I liked Kalena, the 10 year old protagonist, for her incorrigible nature and indomitable spirit in the face of adversity. She has a nice character arc as she discovers her own gifts and opinions, even as she learns new things about her place in the political landscape of the Empire in which she lives. When she is taken from home to a special academy that will train her to fly Kalar, I enjoyed the fact that it didn’t fall into the cliché of school bullies and mean teachers. The training as well went along at a nice clip and didn’t drag on and on, leaving room for other exploits and adventures.
In fact, I liked Kalena so much I wanted to know her better. The writing fell into the Show vs. Tell issue when it came to how Kalena felt. Emotions were often described rather than shown (i.e. “She was frightened” rather than her heart was pounding, pulse racing, palms sweating, cold knot in the stomach). This would’ve helped me to share her head space and be more in the moment with her.
I was also a little thrown by how relatively fast she got over what was basically a legal abduction by the State. Where’s the grief over being taken from her parents? Some mention of missing the habits of home would’ve demonstrated this loss, maybe how mama used to sing to her before bed or the smell of the kitchen at home before dinner, or the feel of sitting on daddy’s shoulders. Where’s the love? Without that, I didn’t immediately bond to her character through my sympathy for her situation. Maybe this stood out to me as well because I have small children and after all the stuff they put us through, darn it, I expect them to miss us if they get carted off to serve the Empire.
The Magical: Love the Kalar! They’re telepathic, winged, dragon-like creatures minus the fire-breathing. I especially enjoyed the relationship between them and the pilot they are bonded to. I totally coveted having my own Kalar–uh, I mean, if I was a kid.
The Mundane: There were quite a few technical issues that frequently took me out of the story: Word repetition, name repetition (Kalena’s name starts two to three sentences in most paragraphs), verb tense issues (past-tense manuscript, with the occasional present-tense sprinkled in), missing words and some grammar snafus. A copy editor could really clean these out.
Summary of Thoughts: This is the first book in a series and is currently $2.99 for the Kindle. Overall, I liked this story but as stated above, there were a few things that kept me from loving it. The ending came too suddenly and unexpectedly. A denouement, or wrap-up chapter, would have given me some warning as I didn’t realize I was even on the last page. Granted, it didn’t leave me in existential agony like other endings have (Desolation of Smaug, anyone?).
Many thanks to the author for providing a free copy of the book to review!
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Want to learn more about H.M. Clarke? Check out her website here: http://www.hmclarkeauthor.com/