PRIEST is perhaps one of the more perplexing books I’ve read this year.
Let’s start with the good, as I am oft wont to do. Contained within the covers of PRIEST is a compelling central narrative, structured around a priest and former “campaigner” (which appears to be this world’s word for “adventurer”) named Heden. When we first meet Heden, he is acting somewhat the knight errant, helping a poor girl who’s been imprisoned for being possessed… But Heden knows that she’s merely ill, and comes to her aid.
Heden, from what we are told, seems to be suffering from something much akin to (if it is not) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is withdrawn and suffers from paralyzing flashbacks to his campaigner days. He is also a priest–thus the title–and once his character is established we get to the heart of the matter. The north is threatened by invaders, and those who might protect the helpless–the Knights of the Green, mysterious forest paladins that no one knows much about–have been reduced from nine members to eight. Permanently.
Our hero is tasked with discovering what happened to the Knights and absolving them, meting out justice so that their ranks might be restored and they can protect the people.
That’s just the beginning of the story, and it unfurls from there into quite the enthralling yarn. The world-building is an intriguing and original take on many common fantasy tropes, building upon the ideas that every fantasy reader knows to create something more. The core of the plot is mysterious and continually commands the reader’s interest.
But. There’s a but here, and I would be remiss if I did not point it out.
I read the Kindle edition, offered free on Amazon a few weeks ago when the author published the second installment. The Kindle edition’s formatting is… lacking, as you can see in the attached screenshot from my iPad’s Kindle app. No paragraph indents is the first offense, and it’s a glaring one. The same problem occurred in Kindle Cloud Reader, so I know it’s not just my device. Overall, the formatting feels amateur at best, and could use a significant rework.
My second issue is the use of language. It’s made clear that Heden has an informal speech style, but even so, using constructions like “ok” and “alright” grate on me as a reader, because they seem more like mistakes than characterization. There is also a significant scene later in the book where the word “reigns” is substituted for “reins” (the horsy kind) 5-10 times in rapid succession.
Ebooks these days are often seen as works-in-progress, which is fine, but I really feel like these are problems which should have been fixed long before the author published the second book.
The important takeaway here, however, is that none of these issues prevented me from reading (and enjoying) the book, all the way to the conclusion. In fact, I’d say it’s quite probable that I will pick up the second installment in the future, because I genuinely want to know what happens to Heden. Given that formatting issues and use of language will often cause me to drop a book before Chapter 2, the author must be commended very highly for creating a story that allowed me to see past these issues to the gem of a tale beneath.
PRIEST gets four stars from me. With polished language and a formatting fix, it would easily be four and a half, and possibly even a full five. This really is an enticing, riveting story, and if you can bring yourself to see past the rough spots, you won’t regret the time you spend reading it. Recommended.