2 out of 4 stars
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The United Empires are at war. After a deadly battle between the armies of the Noelle Empire and the People’s Empire, a young soldier, Gerardo of Liko, is the sole survivor. His next task leaves him with no room to rest, however: he must rescue Jorge of En Why from Emperor Mentir’s palace. His only companions on this impossible mission are a curious pixie named Rein Bow and his excellent fighting and survival skills. Will he manage to fulfill his destiny and get his promised reward or is he doomed to a tragic fate?
J.D. Buchmiller’s Follow is a fantasy adventure novel that centers on Gerardo and his journey to save Jorge. Readers who enjoy epic narratives involving empires and wars might be disappointed: though the story takes place during a war, the actual strategies and long-term plans are eschewed in favor of a self-contained quest. Huge battles and army movements are described in a few paragraphs at best. Instead, the focus remains on the individual struggles the characters go through.
If you’re familiar with fantasy stories, the book’s setting shouldn’t be anything particularly novel. It’s a medieval-like world filled with all the familiar races: humans, elves, pixies, unicorns, etc. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the time devoted to worldbuilding can go to plot and character development, but it’s something to keep in mind.
There are plenty of twists and turns that keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Characters often find themselves in tough dilemmas that test their luck and wits, and it’s hard not to wonder how in the world they’re going to succeed against such overwhelming odds. That said, these scenes are rendered somewhat ineffective by the main problem with the novel: it lacks a certain “spark.”
This “spark” is hard to precisely pinpoint, but it’s what keeps you engaged in a story and sustains your suspension of disbelief. Whether it’s relatable characters, a captivating plot or an interesting world, you need something to make you care about the events in a narrative. Otherwise, even a textbook can be more engaging than your story.
The characters in the novel rarely get opportunities for psychological exploration and development, which makes them uninteresting. Sure, we see them in hardships, but we don’t have many reasons to cheer for them. The dialogue is fairly bland and doesn’t allow any character to have a unique voice. The motivations of the main antagonist, Emperor Mentir, are never made particularly clear. As far as the reader is concerned, this entire war happened because Mentir is an evil man who enjoys doing evil things; that’s all. Most of the plot is about the characters attempting rescue missions over and over again, not offering anything deeper.
Follow is an interesting story that falls short of its true potential. The worldbuilding is simple but competent, the plot doesn’t lack thrilling developments, there are quite a few likable characters, and even the editing is excellent (I’ve only found three minor errors), but the book fails to make the reader invested in the adventure. So my final rating is 2 out of 4 stars, right in the middle: not a bad book but not an excellent one either.
The novel features some violence and torture but no profanities or excessive gore, so it should be suitable for teenagers. I recommend it to fans of straightforward adventure stories with destined heroes and despicable villains. I don’t recommend it to those who prefer more robust fantasy books.
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