3 out of 4 stars
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I have said before that I am hesitant to read or review books that take place in the middle of a series; alas, I chose to do both for Steven N. Mouland’s Frozen Mystic, which is the third book in his Children of the Zodiac cycle, preceded by Frozen Path and Frozen Souls. The biggest reason for this decision is that the first two books were reviewed and given four stars by two OBC reviewers that I admire greatly, Kappy and Levi, respectively. I am always on the lookout for a rising star in the realm of Fantasy Fiction, so I stood on their promises that I would find some worthwhile reading along with an original take on the common motifs of magic, sword-wielding, dragons, and unearthly beasts. Although I did truly enjoy the book, I must offer this warning: There were a decent number of issues and events from the previous two book in the trilogy that were not reintroduced to bring the reader up to speed, so I can’t promise that this review will be devoid of spoilers; given that I have no knowledge of any cliffhangers or surprises that were carried over, I may mention story elements that were meant to be plot twists or moments of suspense prior to where I picked up this series.
Frozen Mystic, like its predecessors, takes place in the world of Arteriea. It is a world on the brink of ultimate war between the forces of good and evil. The Zodiac Children, a select fated few, have been chosen to fight this war against the Shadow and the minions of darkness. However, the perils of wielding the power of the Zodiac are just as dangerous as the evil the Children are fighting to defeat; the power seems to be a sentient being with its own consciousness and will consume its master if not constantly kept in check. Also, each Child is unaware of who the others are and, guided only by vague dreams and visions, must find the other Children. Only after they discover each other, and themselves, can they truly hope to be powerful enough to locate and defeat the Shadow and the wielder of Chaos. As the Children prepare for battle, they will learn that victory is not without costs. Destinies must be changed, allies will become enemies, and lives will require ultimate sacrifice; even then, do they really have a chance?
Frozen Mystic has several qualities about it that are popular among readers. First, the book is nothing if not straightforward. There is no fluff to be found here; the descriptions are precise, and the majority of the narrative is either action or dialogue. While I enjoy rich detail and long-winded prose, I can definitely appreciate a rapid-fire narrative that doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the heart of the matter. Besides, this type of approach seems to be working very well for James Patterson. Additionally, Mr. Mouland does a wonderful job blending fantasy mainstays such as wizardry, trolls, dragons, and the like, with his own fantastic and original ideas. If every fantasy book was a clone of Tolkien, we’d only read Tolkien, but Mouland definitely brings some fresh concepts to the traditional epic. Finally, Mr. Mouland develops his characters, not by his words, but by their actions. The reader is not simply told about Gallowyn’s love for Jeremisias or Reichan’s distrust of Aramus; he or she learns those things through conversation and interaction. All in all, the author was able to succinctly tell a balanced story with relatable characters while not wasting any time on elements that were less than one hundred percent intrinsic to the main story arc.
On the other hand, there are a couple of issues I would like to point out. Most importantly, the author gives absolutely no background to what happened in the previous two books. There are several times when a character recounts what happened the last time they met or still remembers how their last conversation ended, but the author never elaborates. This implies to the reader that something important happened at some point prior to Frozen Mystic, but unless the reader goes back and reads those books, he or she will never know exactly what took place. The book is written for those who have already read the first two installments in the series. Another thing that bothered me, albeit to a much lesser extent, is that Mr. Mouland’s writing style translates poorly on the limited occasions when the action does slow down a bit. He looked at his computer screen. He took a breath. He typed the first word. He deleted it. He retyped it. He yawned. He thought about what he wanted to say. He completed the paragraph. This style works perfectly with the frantic heat of battle, but when a character is having a beer at the tavern and relaxing, it just doesn’t convey the proper ambience and attitude to the situation. Again, there is not much slowing down in this book, so it doesn’t matter that often; however, in those few instances, the writing style becomes a distraction.
Overall, I enjoyed Frozen Mystic, and I positively will be purchasing the first two Children of the Zodiac installments. The end of the book also announces a new trilogy in the cycle, circa 2017, as well as a new series beginning this year. I will also acquire them as they are released. Steven Mouland is just getting started as an author, and I believe he has the potential to attract a decent following. I’m giving Frozen Mystic 3 out of 4 Stars. I do recommend reading the Children of the Zodiac cycle in publication order, but I have little doubt that fans of epic fantasy will enjoy this series and become immersed in the adventures of the heroes and villains of Arteriea. I extend my congratulations and appreciation to the author, and I look forward to more tales in the near future.
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