AWAKENINGS (Amazon) is Edward Lazellari’s debut novel and not a bad one at that. It’s not often that I come across one as good as this, in fact. It’s a story that struck a chord with me, landing somewhere smack in the middle of John Connelly, Mike Resnick, and a jaunt through the backless Wardrobe.
The plot revolves around the efforts of a couple parties from a magical world named Aandor to find a prince that has been lost in our world. It’s difficult, really, to say much more than that without including some spoilers, as the development of the story is so intimately tied with the progression of the book. This was one of the things that I really liked about the way the author put the story together. Each piece of the story that is revealed comes as the characters interact with one another and try to piece things together themselves. Thus, anything more detailed that I might include to whet your collective appetites might spoil the plate, and I’d rather avoid that.
Suffice it to say, there are several characters of interest (a police officer, a druggie with low morals, and a high school kid), lots of engaging action, and a little amnesia thrown in to mix things up. Readers start out knowing who the various search parties (both nefarious and well-intentioned) are searching for, and it’s obvious fairly quickly who the targets are. Thankfully, the author never tries to hide this from us. Along in the mix are some trolls, some gnomes, and a relative of Mr. Fantastic’s that has wicked-sharp claws and blue ink for blood. Oh, and the dude that can pull your beating heart out of your chest without killing you. He’s in there too.
As an aside, it was also pretty funny. I like books that make me laugh. You too? I thought you might.
One of the main characters, Seth, really reminded me of The Prisoner from King’s Dark Tower series. It’s hardly ever a bad thing, for me, to see a story channel a favorite character of mine from a previous read. Here, Lazellari does something very similar to what King did, in that he takes a character that is quite supremely unsympathetic and gets us to like him. From Seth we get humor in abundance and eventually some guilt, and it all really worked for me. I loved the high degree of characterization in the book. The author has done it with each of those we spend time with, and secondary characters as well. You get the high school kid that’s beaten by an abusive step-father. You see the confusion and heartache as the more fantastical characters learn about their past lives. You see the affect of this new-found history on the officer’s wife. All good stuff.
The one complaint I have about the book is that it essentially stops right in the middle of the story without any kind of resolution, minor or major. We have a couple chapters that summarize where each of the characters is and, Bob’s your uncle, we’re done. The one thing that the ending does have going for it is that there is a fairly large change in the situation of each of the various characters. A plot turn. Still, it just didn’t feel like a proper ending. Even if there are going to be sequels. It was like Empire Strikes Back without the reveal from Darth Vader. Luke lost a hand. Okay. Um, now what? It doesn’t ruin the ending, but there just isn’t any punch to it. You know? (Catch that one? I thought you might.)
On the whole though, I’m completely impressed with this new entry and will be looking forward to Lazellari’s next installment. In some respects, I think the sequel has potential to totally come off the rails and end in catastrophe as we move from the “real” world and into the magical one. And yet this first chapter of the story has also shown the very distinct possibility of being one of those fantasy stories that sticks out amongst all of the other magical-world crossovers. We’ll see. Definitely not a book to miss, and fairly high on my scale of Like.
- Recommended Age: 18+
- Language: Frequent and strong
- Violence: Pretty high
- Sex: Lots of references from Seth, and one low-detail scene