Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
London-based author Hoffman makes his U.S. debut with this dark fantasy novel featuring 16-year-old Thomas Cale and his friends Kleist and Vague Henry, imprisoned since toddlerhood in an otherworldly fortress to be trained as soldiers by the Redeemers, a group of religious fanatics planning war on their neighbors. When the boys accidentally discover an especially grisly secret, they must escape or be killed. The first entry in a planned trilogy written in the tradition of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, Hoffman's adventure lacks adequate plot structure and character development. Still, actor Steve West adds value to this audio edition, narrating with clarity and flexibility. With its teenage protagonists, many battle scenes, and pseudomedieval setting, this title will appeal to adolescent listeners; parents should be aware it contains violence and cruelty.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-Paul Hoffman's first title (Dutton, 2010) in a projected trilogy is a complex, multilayered fantasy that delves into themes about world domination, personal power, and the fanaticism of religion and warfare. Thomas Cale has been raised by the Redeemers, a religious order that trains young boys to be future warriors in their planned battle against the Antagonists.While Cale is often the victim of more than the usual abuse, when he escapes with three companions-Kleist, Vague Henri, and Riba (a young girl he rescues from a terrible death)-the word goes out that upon capture he should not be killed. When the runaways are picked up by the Materazzi, a militant group from the community of Memphis, we learn that Cale can predict the actions of anyone going into battle againsthim and is also a great strategist.The Materazzi, considered the finest military warriors in the world, have a lot to learn from Cale, whom they do not trust.Romance between Cale and the beautiful Arbell Swan-Neck, daughter of Memphis's ruler, complicates the plot but adds to the story's appeal.Steve West's narration is aloof and seemingly impersonal. His pace allows listeners to feel Cale's innocence as well as his ruthlessness. West seems to be the outside observer, just reporting the facts and their consequences.His narration of the final battle is cold and unrelenting as he dispassionately relates horrific scenes; it's almost too much to bear. A powerful listening experience.-Edith Ching, formerly Washington Latin Public Charter School, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The remote Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a huge, grim fortress. There boys younger than 10 are taken for intensive training in hand-to-hand combat in preparation for a forthcoming holy war that only the high priests know about. Sixteen-year-old Thomas Cale is one of the thousands of boys who endure unspeakable treatment at the hands of the warrior monks. Sensing something special about Cale, the Lord Militant takes charge of his training, making it extremely harsh and driving him to achieve more and more. When Cale comes across a Redeemer performing a vivisection on a girl, he slays the man, rescues another girl, and realizes that to live he must escape into the outside world. What ensues is a riveting tale of pursuit, derring-do, battles, and death. Unfortunately, some intrusive authorial explanatory asides interrupt the narrative flow. Enigmatic Cale is something of a berserker on his dark side, a protector on his good one. Other principals are credible, and the settings the foul sanctuary, barren landscape, and aristocratic city to which Cale flees vivid. A rousing trilogy-opener.--Estes, Sally Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
The first of a medieval-fantasy trilogy from the author of The Golden Age of Censorship (2008, etc.). At the vast, labyrinthine Sanctuary arrives a seemingly endless supply of orphan boys. Here the religious-fanatic Redeemers attempt to inculcate the boys with their faith while turning them into holy warriors. So unremittingly brutal and sadistic are their methods, however, that it's a miracle that any survive; those that do are tough, sociopathic and accomplished liars. While exploring the Sanctuary's endless corridors, Cale and his friends Kleist and Vague Henri stumble upon a senior Redeemer carefully eviscerating a living girl, while another awaits the same fate. Appalled, the boys rescue the survivor, Riba, and flee thanks to Cale's extraordinary talents. They arrive at Memphis, a sort of waterless Venice ruled by a clan of Italianate Teutonic knights called the Materazzi. Having no breeding or social standing whatsoever, the fugitives are treated with contempt even after Cale easily defeats Conn, the Materazzi's finest young warrior. Eventually, after innumerable complications, for reasons that only become clear at the end, the Redeemers move against Memphis. During all this, the narrative tone switches abruptly between boyish, avuncular, pedagogic, ironic and jocular. Hoffman carefully foreshadows events that never happen, then, having overlooked necessary facts, abruptly blurts them out or digresses for several pages. The randomly assembled, pseudo-medieval backdrop is stuffed with leering modern referents. Yet despite these gaping flaws, the plight of poor, tormented, invincible Cale beguiles, and the book's true power is its utter unpredictability. Judging by the hype, what the publisher hoped for was Lord of Harry Potter's Dark Materials; what it actually secured is, in its own immodest way, engrossing enough. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.