Monday, April 08, 2013

REVIEW: Riddle in Stone by Robert Evert

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Edmund is an antiquarian and scholar who lives in the small remote village of Rood in the Far North. Though you'd usually find him immersed in his books, Edmund's actually got big dreams of one day leaving Rood and doing something really important with his life, something that will earn him the respect of the townsfolk who think he's nothing but a stuttering, bumbling idiot, and the eye of Molly, whom he's loved from afar for a long time.

When a royal proclamation from the kingdom presents itself, granting Lordship over the Highlands to the person who can locate and bring to the King the long last Star of Iliandor, Edmund thinks this is finally the chance he's been waiting for. For in his own personal library lies the precious diary of Lord Iliandor himself, beloved ruler of the Highlands who fought against and defeated the Undead King and his goblin armies in three hard-fought wars. It was at the end of the third and final war that Iliandor died in combat, and the blue jewel he wore upon his crown was forever lost to history. But a lone squire from Iliandor's army had managed to find his way back back to Rood, and he carried on his person the diary of Lord Iliandor. Written in the ancient tongue of Dunael, a language which very few living people could still read or understand, the diary included the last dying words of Lord Iliandor, and with this arcane knowledge, Edmund is certain he knows where to start looking for the prized jewel. For if he can accomplish this single task, he'll most assuredly earn the respect he's been craving all his life, plus have his own heroic tales to hold a captive audience.

Edmund sets out in the dead of the night on an epic journey to locate the lost Star of Iliandor. Shunted by a strong self of self-doubt and a negative voice in his head that keeps telling him to turn back, Edmund has his own inner demons to battle in addition to those he meets on his long trek across the wide plains and into the mountains of the Highlands where he's certain he'll find the prized jewel... But what he discovers along the way is so much more!

Edmund is definitely not your typical hero. Slightly overweight and with a strong stutter, he's not taken seriously by any of his fellow townsfolk. There's a good lesson here about the underdog being able to overcome all obstacles that stand in his way and come out on top. Though with everything that gets thrown at Edmund along the way, you never really know if he's going to make it out alive or not.

I enjoyed this debut novel from author Robert Evert, and understand that it's to be the first in a new series. The book was fairly long at about 462 pages, but read fairly quickly most of the way through due to lots of action. The world building and vivid descriptions the author uses transplanted me right into the story, where I could almost sense the damp, chill air of all the tunnels through the mountains, and the eerie feeling of never knowing what lay around the next corner. However, during the first half of the book, I would sometimes find myself quickly snapped out of that world because I was starting to get tired of listening to all Edmund's self-doubt--I just wanted to shake him and tell him to snap out of it! Fortunately, Edmund eventually does develop a backbone along with a bit more resolve and and starts to take on the shape and characteristics of a true hero, surprising even himself, and a lot of his negativity ceases with the increase in his bravery.

I'm giving this book a solid 6 out of 10 stars (3.5 for Goodreads). I would've rated it slightly higher if I didn't find Edmund's character a bit grating. I also felt the last 1/4 of the book could've progressed a bit quicker. But that's a bit harder to talk about without spoilers. Suffice to say, the action seemed to slow down a bit in the last 1/4 or so of the book so I felt some pages could've been saved there in keeping it with the pace of the rest of the story. Overall, a very strong debut novel from this author and I look forward to reading the next one.