3 out of 4 stars
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Esther (The Watcher Trilogy Book 1) by AJ Rugg starts with an evil entity, Morbus, arriving at the mighty kingdom of Alium. He wants to plant his rotten seeds in all four nations of this world, meaning its subjugation. Argyle, the Watcher, dies under the burden of his age. But he knows that the light one was born to fight the darkness.
Esther is an ordinary farm girl, or so it seems. Her mother died, giving her birth. Her loving father and an elder brother, Derrick, lost their lives, fighting King Roland's army. Esther saw their death, as she rushed to the battlefield to help them. Everything seems lost for Esther, who is just eleven years old. But help comes unexpectedly. A mercenary named Malcolm, fighting on the king's side found Esther. He took her to the farm of his sister, Miriam, a guardian of orphan children.
Meanwhile, Alium's King Roland is sick in the capital city of Astar. So a strange healer comes to the palace. There is something unusual about his appearance, but King Roland, a weak ruler, welcomes his assistance. Thus, Trekrod, a son of Morbus, suppresses his will and soon will possess many good people of Alium. He searches for a particular child, killing all children 11 or 12 years old. Malcolm sees a horrifying metamorphose of Astar's inhabitants. Their will is broken; they are mumbling something about "salvation." Malcolm flees the city, hurrying to Miriam's farm. He knows that the children are in grave danger.
King Roland begins to build a huge army; the war is coming; rebel bands resist the cruel Trekrod. The Old One, Mahilde, finds an unusual helper to stop the evil that happens all around.
I like that the fictional world depicted in the book is simple. The author speaks about ordinary farmers, soldiers, mercenaries, or sailors. Thanks to this simplicity, the book reads almost like a medieval story. Also, I found that the author's approach toward characters is very refreshing. For example, Malcolm is 47 years old when we first meet him. He is not a knight in shining armor; his past holds its tragedies; his future is obscure. Malcolm's character is multilayered. We could say in modern terms that he's experiencing a midlife crisis, trying to find his place in the rapidly changing world. It helps us emotionally connect with him. A hunter named Willich is another interesting character. He lost his beloved wife, Jai, because of his drinking habit. He can kill for a flask of "fire spirit." But "even the most unworthy can earn a second chance." This encouraging refrain follows Willich's storyline, which is the most intriguing in the book, in my opinion. Esther is strong-willed, stubborn, sharp-witted, and hard-working. At first, she appears naive, but she is a fast learner. Her storyline offers many great surprises for readers. Relationships between the characters deserve high praise as well.
I disliked that the scenes of violence depicted in the book were too graphic. It prevented me from recommending the book to a younger audience. In my opinion, young Esther could be a great role model for readers under 18 years of age. Also, I disliked that young children were working on the farm. I understand that the concept is given within the frames of the fictional world, but I still disagree with it as a display of charity. Also, the book lacks a map. It would be handy, for the given geography consists of Alium, Ornen, the Kedow lands, and the southern islands.
I give this book 3 out of 4 stars. The mentioned above issues and more than ten mostly punctuation errors and some typos that I found didn't allow me to give the book a perfect rating. I couldn't give it two stars because the book is a strong premise of a promising series. The author ended this book on a high note that made me want more of this adventurous story.
I recommend this book to all fans of fantasy, dark fantasy, and epic fantasy genres. In my opinion, fans of dystopian novels would enjoy this one as well. A sensitive audience should take into consideration the explicit scenes of violence, as I mentioned above. The book would appeal to those readers who prefer character-driven stories and books built around strong female characters. Lovers of war-themed books would appreciate it. The book is suitable for those who choose a fresh approach toward a classic of the genre.
Esther (The Watcher Trilogy Book 1)
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