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The book is fairly short, coming in at 126 pages in the paperback version, which by my rough estimation places it in the category of novella. For a story of that size, it keeps a good rhythm, containing some smaller side adventures and not seeming rushed. While shorter books can run the risk of feeling too superficial, rushed or uncompleted, I prefer a good shorter book to a longer one when like this one it provides the satisfying story of a book twice its size in half the time.
However, at times, I found the narration somewhat too matter-of-fact. On the vast spectrum from police-report-style to outright poetry, I found it leaning slightly too much to the former. Perhaps, that is to be more accessible to young, teenage audiences by having a slightly simpler prose. Indeed, for a book with a 15-year-old main character and themes of coming of age, the book also lacks any reference to budding sexuality. While incredibly unrealistic and thus a little disappointing to older audiences (perhaps more because of the lost realism than an actual desire to hear about a 15 year old's crushes or pubescent frustrations), this again may be explained by a story told with younger audiences in mind.
Another point of slight criticism would be regarding my investment in some of the characters. On the one hand they were fleshed out decently and I do find myself rooting for the protagonists. On the other hand, the heroes mostly lacked the internal character flaws that give the reader emotional accessibility and give the story dramatic self-antagonism. Instead, the flaws of the hero are superficial rather than depth-giving in that they are out of the hero's control, such as his age. It's hard to appreciate the hero's success if he needn't also overcome some significant, more personal, internal conflict to parallel his outward success and provide meaning to his outward failure.
However, I mean these seeming criticisms only in a relatively small degree. Many other books I have read are much worse on all those accounts.
Overall, the story is engaging and exciting with a sophisticated element of drama and suspense, like an epic condensed for the better. For instance, at several points in the book I remember feeling along with Michael a vague sense of increasing dread that led to the expected but still surprising and intense rush of action. Gaining and maintaining the tone and read-between-the-lines story-telling technique that gives suspense of impending action, perhaps the literary equivalent of the slow ride up on a real life roller-coaster, takes quite a bit of skill as a story-teller that is lost on those that always just jump from downs to ups instantly with unforeshadowed surprise scenes of action.
I give Michael Zachary: The Wilderness Battle 3 out of 4, and I recommend it. I especially recommend it for those who enjoy action-adventure epics despite it being neither as long nor on as grand of a scale as the usual epic because many of the same appealing qualities of an adventurous epic exist in this book that you can read happily in a day.
"Michael Zachary" on Amazon (Available in paperback and Kindle editions. Public free sample also available.)
"Michael Zachary" on Barnes and Noble (Available in paperback and as Nook book. Free sample for B&N members.)
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