THE BROTHERHOOD OF PIAXIA by Michael Drakich
Amazon Digital Services, 2012, 294 pages, B007KPS442, $4.99, Kindle Edition
Michael Drakich’s brief fantasy novel covers all the bare essentials of the classic medieval adventure story: the wise, elderly wizard who wields immeasurable power (complete with long, white beard), the young apprentice mage who is uniquely adept at training, and the poor helpless girl in dire need of saving. The Brotherhood of Piaxia has it all; it’s your standard fantasy novel. But that’s just the problem–it’s standard. Nothing stands out in this book. Nothing separates it from the multitude of other stories being put out right now, especially in the self-published domain. In a market that’s saturated by new works, each vying for the reader’s attention, a book has to have something unique and remarkable. This book was decently written, with a fairly well-arched plot line and a solid story, but that’s it.
The kingdom of Piaxia, once ruled by the old monarchy, has been overtaken by the Brotherhood of Warlocks, who seized power from the corrupt kings to create a more peaceful society. Years have passed and, in the quiet town of Rok, a new warlock apprentice has been chosen during the kingdom’s summer solstice festival. The young man, Tarlok, begins training and quickly becomes a skilled sorcerer. Meanwhile, in the capital city of Lia, the Brotherhood has become riddled with corruption under the malicious Warlock Lord Kurmia. A young merchant family and their daughter, Tessia, are harassed by a group of warlocks and forced to run out of the city into hiding. As their individual lives become entwined, the machinations of the Brotherhood and the Merchants Guild (an organization of merchants struggling for power) throw the kingdom into chaos.
As far as the story goes, there’s nothing exactly wrong with it. Drakich writes very simply, with no elaborate imagery or elevated word choice. The villain is very clearly established with Lord Kurmia, and his plans for domination are predictable enough. So much so that the reader has to question why none of the characters can see it coming. The blatantly malicious and corrupt ruler has amassed an army of warlocks, and the winter solstice is rapidly approaching, at which point all of the kingdom’s warlock lords will be meeting in Lia. It’s one of the book’s main issues; nothing is left to the imagination. There’s no suspense within the story. Everything in this novel has been seen before. So when you find out that the royal family was slaughtered, you know that there must be one who survived, probably a princess. When we see the kindly old shepherd living in isolation, we know he’s going to be the all-powerful wizard. When the wizard’s Jedi-like mind-reading powers have no effect on the members of the Merchants Guild, we know that they will be attempting to take down the Brotherhood. We see it all coming, and since it’s all familiar, there’s nothing to hold our attention.
The same can be said for the characters. Some are interesting to a point. Bron, the all-powerful wizard, steals any moment he’s in, and Grott is also a fun member of the cast. Still, neither of them are their own characters. Others are simply there to be there, particularly Tarlok. He’s the average male protagonist of a fantasy story, with almost no real personality to speak off. Still, he’s easy enough to read. The only character that I couldn’t tolerate was Tessia, the female lead. Not only is she clichéd–the helpless female who needs protection from the evil warlock–but she also manages to make things constantly worse throughout the story. She’s the reason her family has to go into hiding, she’s the reason they get captured, and, while they’re in hiding, she deliberately jeopardizes them. She’s entirely unsympathetic, but luckily she’s the only character in the novel who is a struggle to endure.
In the end, The Brotherhood of Piaxia is a simple, quick read. It’s not bad, not great, not necessarily mundane, but definitely not thrilling. As I said before, it’s your standard fantasy story. If you’re looking for a solid adventure filled with magic, evil empires, hidden princesses, and young heroes thenthis is, by all means, an enjoyable novel for the mere $4.99 download fee. But if you’re in the mood for something tantalizing and new, a story you’ve never encountered before, look elsewhere.
Thank you to Michael Drakich for providing a review copy.
Review by Carlo P.