Thursday, March 26, 2009

A. J. Hartley's Act of Will a fun smart fantasy.

"Words, like swords, have a way of getting people in and out of trouble. Morality was never my strong point, but I suddenly saw the attraction of being right and knowing it...."
Will Hawthorne.

Will Hawthorne just turned 18. He is a member of a theater in Cresdon. Today he finds out if the group will let him stay or kick him out. But before he can find out the Empire bands all theater and plays on the ground that they lead to revolts. Any actor or writer(which Will does both) is on the list to be arrested. Of course Will's name is on the top of that list

So on the run from the Empire troops(it doesn't help that just before the troops showed up that a fellow actor caught him stealing from another actor) he runs into 4 people who with no like for the Empire who helps him escape.

And with that for the first time he leaves the city he was born, raised and lived his whole some what sheltered life. And to say the least he isn't quite prepared for the trip or as they say the real world.

He 4 rescuers are Mithos(with a rep as a rebel among other things), Orgos(big man who knows how to use swords) and brother and sister, Garnet and Renthrette(both not real keen on helping Will). All with no love of the Empire who rules the lands. They agree to take Will with them to meet their leader who has a job for the group. And if the leader agrees then Will will be allowed to come with them.

So he meets the leader and to sat he is surprised is an understatement(hey if your looking for me to tell you everything forget it). . But the leader agrees that Will may join them. It seems that he has the gift of talking which has helped them for time to time.

The job is in the far lands of Targev, Shale and Greycoast. It seems these lands are being each attacked by raiders. Attacking merchants, villages and killing everyone. It seems that each of these three countries rely on each other for food and other merchandise. But the problems is not quite easy. The raiders always mysteriously(is there any other way?) disappearing with out a trace. The job is to locate these marauders so that the armies of the 3 countries can stop them.

Now I know what your thinking. Your thinking "OK this is another story about a guy with no experience in fighting or anything like that and goes with this group and find that he was born for this and that his real destiny along was to be a hero" kind of story.

Yes, Will find out what he is truly capable of but not in the "I am a warrior born all along" kind of way. Will knows nothing on how to use weapons. Hell he can hardly use a crossbow. Not to mention a sword not even the magic sword that Orgos has which some how emits bright flashes of light(that for some reason requires believe in ones purpose). The closet he ever came to using one was as a prop on stage. And I can't say how that really counts.

He not an especially brave man either. He never has been in a fight much less a battle before, though he does fight his first inclination is to run. And often it is what he does. He actually thinks bravery is overrated and is more than likely to just get you killed, and where is the point in that. And when he does something brave or seems brave it is most by accident(or in running away) and he rather not have it brought to any one attention.

And as for morals, well lets say they are on the ambiguous side. He has no compunction to lying or stealing. Though he doesn't understand killing(which he will have to do to say alive), especially for honor. But he will try to defend a lady if he thinks he can(or if he his trying to impress her) but that doesn't usually work out either.

Though the best think he does is talk. Word's are his weapon and they have gotten him in almost as much trouble(almost hanged) as they have gotten him out of. That and he is I suppose, because he is a writer and actor has a great attention to detail. More than once he has noticed something that has helped the group solve this dilemma of the raiders.

He is almost a complete opposite of these "rebels" fate has thrown him in with. Mithos and the others, especially Orgos believe in fighting for honor, justice. They constantly remind him he would be dead with out them. A fact he often comments on himself. And they accepted him really with out question which is another thing Will most likely never do. The fact that Empire was after him was enough reason for them to save him. But if he is to stay with them he must learn how to defend himself, which he does to a certain degree and work to earn his keep as the other do.

It is in the end that with his words he find his sense of purpose. At the end when he faces down the leaders of the raiders. But it isn't with honor or bravery that he faces them with but realism. He sees the truth of what these raiders must do to win and keep the lands the fight for. He also sees the truth in what will happen to him and the others if they keep fighting. It was with that he found what he believed in and was able to use the sword to end the fight.

Which brings us to the quote at the beginning of the blog.

Will's voice in this story is ours. Will see the worlds as we do, realistically which is kind of sad. We wish we could see the world as Orgos and the others do in simple terms of right, wrong, honor dishonor, black and white. If you see trouble you help, if you see injustice you fight it with justice. But we know that the world is not so easily divided so simply(though they are not naive in any way). The shades of morality can be dark and light and every shade in between and sometimes not so easily recognized. It is how Will see the world. It his is power.

With Act of Will, A.J. Hartley has written a smart yet fun fantasy novel. Between the first and last page A.J. keeps the pace moving with a well plotted and well written characters. Each characters is well written though we don't find out much about Will's traveling companions it is that mystery I hope he explores in a future novel of Will Hawthorne. I really look forward to seeing him expand on this world and characters.

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