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To Love a Sagelord: The Return to Enlightenment Volume One

by Paul Massey

(Transverity, £7.99, 286 pages, paperback, published 2006.)

Review by Martin Owton

Rhin is a sixteen year old boy from a small country town who has won a coveted place at the Thor-Tekaas Military Academy at the opening of the story. Shortly after starting at the Academy and experiencing his first taste of the harsh discipline, he meets Platon, a Sagacioni diplomat. Rhin immediately falls in love with Platon, providing for much subsequent difficulty as Platon is androgynous and much older than he/she appears. Then Rhin discovers that an ancient secret society, the Knighthood of Jador, is active in the Academy and their main aim is to pursue an old feud with the Sagacioni, who they call Sagelords. He takes his report to his Professor, but the Professor is part of the conspiracy and Rhin flees from the Academy to the Sagacioni embassy. Realising the danger that they are in, Platon and his advisor Jarin prepare to leave Tekaania for their homeland of Atlantia with Rhin. As they do so they are joined by Irena, another cadet from the Academy, who has a crush on Rhin. They leave the capital with the Shakra, the secret police, on their heels and their leaving sets in train the coup that brings the Knighthood to power. The story follows them as they flee across the country, through hazards both natural and man-made, finding allies and friends in unexpected places.

These days it is harder than ever to place a fantasy novel with one of the major publishers in the UK. It stands to reason then that there must be many good (but not quite good enough) novels around that are struggling to find a readership through less conventional paths, including self-publishing. Unfortunately To Love a Sagelord is not one of them, and it is all too easy to see why it would not have got out of the slushpile. All the usual faults of the beginning writer are evident: telling not showing, point of view shifting, deeply unrealistic dialogue, unnecessary characters (Irena), otherwise sensible people making stupid decisions to direct the plot etc. And there's poetry. It's not all bad though. Paul Massey has a respectable narrative gift, the plot is coherent and the pacing is good. The book itself is well presented and free from typos. The ending is pretty abrupt and very clearly flagged for the next book in the series. I would strongly urge Mr Massey to seek out a decent writers' group and get the next book properly critiqued before publishing it, and lose the poetry.

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