Verdict: Utilizing less bloody battles throughout—and with more conscious intent overall—would make KILLERS, TRAITORS & RUNAWAYS a more effective read. The novel would be well served by deeper, more fully fleshed-out explorations of the friendships and animosities between characters, rather than relying so heavily on excessive violence.
Fashioning universes is always an ambitious undertaking. When done well, unique stories–experienced by fully fleshed-out characters that readers can dive into and care about–are formed. These are the sorts of books a fantasy audience generally never want to end. KILLERS, TRAITORS & RUNAWAYS – Outcasts of the Worlds, Book II by Lucas Aubrey Paynter takes on Gods, Goddesses, lifeforms of various types including human, multiple worlds, and large universal themes.
KILLERS, TRAITORS & RUNAWAYS is at its best when such layers are reflected in poignant interactions or humorous camaraderie: “Crescen stood up, hoping privately that it wasn’t his last bowl of noodles, for it certainly hadn’t been his best.” Unfortunately poignant or humorous moments are few and far between. The novel runs almost 800 e-book pages and is populated by characters/worlds that require significant effort to keep straight, since an overabundance of words is spent moving multiple people to and from multiple worlds, while few words are used to invitingly paint these locations and the people in them in ways each can be tangibly, viscerally felt.
For a novel exploring violence versus pacifism, for example, “Not my battle…I’ll wait until it’s over. I wish you good luck in your murders” “What sort of crime could change a person to something less than human?” “Are we the attackers or defenders? As the dangers we face worsen, I fear no longer knowing the difference”, KILLERS, TRAITORS & RUNAWAYS is chock full of scenes of people getting disemboweled, fights without honor, breezy deaths and senseless mayhem. With a large roster of characters, who for the most part remain two-dimensional, this over-indulgence in violence tends to keep the reader on the story’s surface, rather than causing them to dive in and care, which is never the most effective way to explore issues of traitors and betrayal.
Without fostering adequate empathy in readers, betrayals ring hollow. Excessive violence also does not make for a pleasant read for anyone who doesn’t enjoy that kind of thing, and it only serves to further concern those already against desensitization of violence within popular media. Most importantly, an over-reliance on brutal aggression to propel the story forward winds up giving the novel an overall flavor of flat personalities, overindulging in senseless harm. Beyond these flaws in characterization and plot, there are also format issues not caught prior to publication, such as inconsistent alterations of typeface.
Utilizing less bloody battles throughout—and with more conscious intent overall—would make KILLERS, TRAITORS & RUNAWAYS a more effective read. The novel would be well served by deeper, more fully fleshed-out explorations of the friendships and animosities between characters, rather than relying so heavily on excessive violence.
~Cristina Salat for IndieReader