Review: The Thorn of Denton Hill
I was in the mood for a straightforward, uncomplicated fantasy story and voila! There on my to-read shelf was THE THORN OF DENTONHILL. I was prepared for tropes and predictability and was even determined to be O.K. with magic system/plot inconsistencies because, really, I rarely notice those details if the characters are engaging and the pacing and story is good… but there is simply no margin for error when the writing is poor. Too bad, because this was potentially as good as early Harry Potter and might have satisfied Rowlings fans in search of something similar and good. Except it’s not.
Veranix is a student of magic… O.K., I have to stop here. You see, I birthed several children at home, so this name made me choke a bit the first time I read it and I found myself reverting to a similar word when the tedious prose started to annoy me. I read on, though, in hopes that things would improve and that Vernix, I mean Veranix, would become as interesting as the great secondary characters. And that he would kiss the girl and grow up a bit by the end. At the very least, that his motivations would line up with his subsequent actions. I was fairly disappointed on all counts.
So, Veranix is a student of magic in a university within a fantasy post Rennaisance-like city that has seen better days. Because of his father’s backstory and his own distaste for the degradation of the environs surrounding the university, and his rare and unusual talent for magic, Veranix sneaks away at night to fight crime, specifically drug trafficking. Which makes little sense. Our young hero is aided by a nerdy fellow magic student and a lovely and exotic groundskeeper. The magics professor, who favors him, and a bullying prefect also provide interest. The local crime lord, who killed Veranix’s father, along with a cabal of truly despicable magicians, decide to put an end to the mysterious trouble-maker, nicknamed The Thorn, and much action and adventure naturally follow.
If only Marshall Ryan Maresca knew how to artfully transition out of the mundane to the really good stuff he has imagined! The rollicking action scenes reminded me of those in Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN, with elements of The Wheel of Time thrown in, and are paced rather well. (Note that I did not offer that as a criticism, because like I said, I was expecting some derivative content.)
Additionaly, almost everything that happens after dark is just about the same scene to scene, except for two extended climaxes that had more originality. Also, like early Sanderson, the normal internal conflicts and obsessions of an adolescent boy are either ignored or breezed-over, though everyone else seems to be behaving as expected within the setting. Maresca’s characters’ dialogue is engaging and even occasionally witty, like Brandon’s, but generally twice as long as necessary. “The Thorn” suffers great physical depredation and injury, the consequences of which disappear and then reappear when convenient to the hard-to-swallow story.
That said, a rewrite with much editing would do this book a world of good because there is so much that is fun and redeemable. Removing certain walking/thinking/eating/dressing “unnecessaries” and cutting the dialogue by half would take THE THORN OF DENTONHILL to a whole new level of maturity and flow. I have heard it said that we often find certain flaws particularly annoying when they mirror our own, so I recognize my own tendencies as I criticize. And I vow to achieve succinctitude even when making up words to entertain myself.
- Recommended Age: 15+
- Language: Mild fantasy swearing
- Violence: Normal amount for heroic fantasy
- Sex: One brief scene with little detail