Verdict: RATHEN: Into the Bramblewood Forest is a straightforward story, and while the plot and characters are a little shallow and predictable, the prose is easy to read and there are enough glimmers of promise to satisfy the most dedicated of fantasy fans.
After a betrayal at the hands of a trusted party member, Rathen must assemble a new team of capable warriors to help him recover the mythical Book of Ziz. Together they’ll travel through the dangerous Bramblewood Forest, in search of the secret headquarters of the High Priest Litagus. If they can retrieve the Book of Ziz, they might just have a chance of saving the world from the return of the evil deity, Gothoar.
Rathen has a personal stake in the quest for the Book of Ziz. Vargas’s betrayal has left Rathen’s faith in his ability to lead shaken. Rathen seeks revenge—but what truly motivates him? Underneath his anger, Rathen is forced to tackle bigger questions about his purpose in life. Unfortunately, the answers to those questions aren’t always clear. Glimpses into Rathen’s inner workings are rare and his motives as a character are often murky, which robs RATHEN: Into the Bramblewood Forest of some of its emotional impact.
That same lack of emotional depth plagues the rest of RATHEN’s cast of colorful characters, too. The novel is populated with a lot of interesting concepts: a one-armed half orc, an ex-gladiator, a pair of orphans raised in a temple, and a group of soldiers from another world, for example. However, the large number of characters spread the novel too thin and while they interact, we don’t get much insight into their inner feelings. Likewise, the villains are motivated only by a search for power, not by underlying emotional strife.
Of the side characters, the lich Magom is the most developed. Magom, who was formerly one of Rathen’s greatest enemies, is searching for redemption. He is a powerful mage who chose immortality over love and has begun to question what his obsession with avoiding death has given him. Over the course of the novel, Magom is moved by how the other party members are willing to sacrifice themselves for their friends. Traveling with the party shows him “the good in mankind”, and his mission to return to his human form is the highlight of the novel.
RATHEN: Into the Bramblewood Forest is a straightforward story, and while the plot and characters are a little shallow and predictable, the prose is easy to read and there are enough glimmers of promise to satisfy the most dedicated of fantasy fans.
~Stephani Hren for IndieReader