The Hidden Face
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
I received a free e-book of this title directly from the author, in exchange for an honest review. I have already e-mailed Stuart to let him know I did not like this one as much as his first novel, Children of the Different. He thanked me for the comments and said to go ahead and post my review. I'm a frustrated, probably never-to-be-published writer myself, but as a reader I know what works or doesn't work for me. This is the first book of a proposed series, so it is likely there will be further exploration of the theme, as well as more character back stories, but I longed for more history up front.
In contrast to a lot of epic fantasy this is a relatively short book. Since it is a completely new world, new races of people, new countries and languages, new dieties and religions, more details were needed to bring the story into focus. Character descriptions, including the frequent flashbacks to earlier times, were too brief, we get mere snippets of information each time. That said, the text could have been even shorter with tighter editing. There are multiple instances of repetitive phrases, almost identical things said or described on the same page, sometimes within the same paragraph. This includes some of the action sequences, with similar descriptions of sword, shield, or knife movements within the same scene. It also occurs in the internal dialog of the two main characters, Dayraven and Sunniva. Their relationship is of the "will they?/won't they?" type. It's evident they will, but before that happens they keep telling themselves, multiple times, that they should ignore the attraction and concentrate on their quest. When their first tryst does happen it's too soon, because earlier events, which I won't detail, should have created more of a hindrance to them getting together.
Then there's the deity Akhen, with his manifestation on Earth(?) in the form of The Face. Every few hundred years or so there is a new Unmasking, the reveal of another Face which will rule the world. There have been four Unmaskings so far, or at least that is what history says, with the Fifth Unmasking rumored to be approaching. Each Unmasking has taken place in a different country than in previous times. Is it coincidence that each successive Unmasking shifts power to the North, or is it fate? Is this a lost epoch of Earth (another "Middle Earth"), or an alternate history, or another planet altogether? If Earth, could it be the far-flung future? Is it possible Akhen isn't actually a deity, but rather an ancient king elevated to myth? From whence came the prophesies of The Face? Are the golden tablets discovered by Dayraven and Sunniva, which apparently identify the next Face, real ancient artifacts or the creation of someone else hopeful of controlling the future? If Akhen is a true deity, and he takes human form as the Face, how or why would any mortal think they could have control over that process? Yet there are several different factions hopeful to do just that. Flynn has his work cut out for him to develop this story to satisfaction. I may or may not follow him on the journey, but I wish him luck.
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