The Amber Isle (Book of Never #1) by Ashley Capes #SPFBO ’16
The Amber Isle by Ashley Capes is the first book I opened amongst Batch No.4 of my self published fantasy blog off books. (Details here). I haven’t finished my round up of for the batch yet but as I read all of this (nearly in one sitting) and found it an enjoyable read I’m reviewing it now. Just to be clear – I haven’t chosen a favourite out of this batch as yet because I’m not at that stage but I like to review the books I complete.
We start the story by meeting with Never who seems to be something of a rogue, likeable at that, who lives with a curse. Or maybe it isn’t a curse – maybe it’s a blessing? His search for clues about his own identify, a mystery that seems unanswerable, has led him to steal a precious map that leads to the Amber Isles, a treasure map this may be but Never is more interested in the pursuit of knowledge. His theft has led to pursuit by a man called Harstas and the army he commands and Never is barely one step ahead as the story opens.
The story is only short (around 130 pages) and is fast paced leading to a fairly quick read. I enjoyed the style of writing and didn’t have any particular criticisms in that respect. A quest style adventure story we pick up what’s going on as the story progresses and in the same way the author starts to give an idea of the world in which Never lives. The early chapters set the scene and Never soon arrives at his destination where he makes the acquaintance of a couple of hunters who are on the island seeking treasure and joins with one of those to continue the search. From hereon in the story is fairly action packed firstly as the two travel the island encountering danger along the way in the form of rope bridges, sea monsters and sea men and then turns into an almost Indiana Jones type quest as they make their way through the labyrinth of tunnels at the heart of the island which seem to be beset by triggers and traps and cryptic doorways with secret codes.
The main character Never is likable although fairly thinly sketched at the moment. The supporting cast were, I suppose a bit weak and need to be built upon – there is also the promise of a further character, who only made a brief and rather unexplained presence rejoining the quest at some stage – or at least I’m hopeful that that may be the case. The mystery that Never seeks answers to remains unsolved at the conclusion of the book in fact this has a taster type feel to it leaving the ending open with possibilities for future reading. I’m rather hopeful that in future instalments Never’s band will expand – I’m hoping for more of the green caped character that we met at the start, perhaps a little more filler in relation to the hunter who joined Never on the Isle and perhaps to make the acquaintance of Never’s brother who holds the promise of more mystery to come.
In terms of criticisms – I can’t really put my finger on it but I have the feeling of something lacking at the moment. Maybe it’s because this story feels like it should be much longer and clearly there will be more instalments so that criticism will hopefully be answered but at the moment I’m just missing that critical element that makes me go from enjoying a book to loving it. At the moment I guess I have the feeling of having picked up a book and then found a good chunk of it missing – not a bad thing I suppose as further instalments are clearly intended.
On the whole, I enjoyed this read. It’s an entertaining quest that feels at this point like the tip of the iceberg. An adventure story with good pace, plenty of action and a conclusion that leaves me wanting more.