Priest (Ratcatchers #1) by Matthew Colville
Priest is one of my SPFBO books.
At the start of the story we’re introduced to a character called Haden, who just so happens to be the priest from the title, as he rescues a young girl who has been wrongly imprisoned. I must say I thought this got off to a very good start with good solid writing and well written and gripping action.
As Haden returns to his home (an Inn he bought but that is not open to the public) he endeavours to make the young girl feel welcome although he doesn’t have time to devote to the cause as he’s about to be sent on a mission by the Bishop.
It appears that one of the Knights of the Green Order has died, or perhaps he was murdered and Haden is being sent to investigate and indeed to form a judgement. The Green Order live deep within the forest and in fact are its protectors.. They abide by ancient rules of chivalry and the notion of one of their order being murdered could undermine their very existence. The main problem with Haden’s quest is that after entering the forest nobody usually returns.
Running parallel to this story is the fact that a vicious and murderous army of orc like creatures are about to bring war to one of the neighbouring villages, a village that usually enjoys the protection of the Green Order but given the knight’s’ current turmoil are now left a little out on a limb.
Certain elements of this book I really enjoyed whilst others I found a little less enjoyable or in fact a bit distracting, but, in spite of that I think the author has come up with a well written and engaging story.
I liked the main character Heden – which is just as well as this really is a little like a one man show to be honest. There are obviously peripheral characters but they’re not really developed much. Heden is a tough character and seems to have certain powers, complemented by a bag of tricks that I wouldn’t mind having to hand myself. I will say that the author throws you into the deep end a little both with the world, the characters and the prior history of the central protagonist. There’s a little reflection on the part of Heden but not much and so whilst you’re given the idea that he is a man troubled by his past you’re never quite sure why. I don’t really mind that to be honest as it leaves room for more development. The main issue I had with Heden was he felt a little inconsistent in his ability. Sometimes he appeared virtually invincible but then other times not so much. He also had lots of props – some of which you couldn’t help wonder why he didn’t use them more often? I’m thinking particularly about having a very powerful sword and also a rather speedy and relatively safe mode of transport?
I liked the idea of the forest, which was almost a character itself and I thought the shout outs to the Arthurian legends were very enjoyable. Even a sort of lady in the lake type of episode.
In terms of criticisms. I found the middle of the book really slowed down for me. Heden seemed to go backwards and forwards and then forwards and backwards and then, well, you get the point I’m sure, there was some fairly lengthy dialogue at one part, a scene which I felt was probably a little unnecessary and a general feeling of lostness – in a way I think this may have been the author’s intention and that my own feelings of not getting anywhere were supposed to mirror the way Heden felt. But, I can’t say that I really enjoyed that particular aspect – or at least, whilst I was feeling lost I didn’t want Heden to feel the same. I felt like he should have a plan even if I didn’t know what it was but as it was it felt like we were both in the dark together.
The other puzzling thing for me was that the start and conclusion of the story seem, at this point, to have very little relevance to the middle part. They feel like two separate stories that bear little relation to each other. Now, that might also just be part of the bigger picture but it just leaves me with an overall feeling of more questions than answers at the end of the read.
All that being said I would like to continue with this story to see how it develops. I think that Colville has this way of writing that calls to mind many influences. I certainly found myself thinking of King Arthur, Lord of the Rings and maybe even a touch of Arabian Nights.
Overall, whilst I did have some issues, mainly centred on the middle aspect of the story, I found this an enjoyable read. I think I would like some more world building but this might be forthcoming in future instalments.