William Edward Rossbach’s young adult novel Epic Quest is a classic hero’s tale: a young servant named Josiah has three years to win his freedom.
Josiah must prove to his master, and to the world, that he has become a success, despite his lowly beginnings as an indentured servant. If he wins, he will gain power, prestige, and freedom. If he fails, he will spend the rest of his life as a slave.
Josiah is in love with the lovely Saarah, his childhood playmate and the daughter of a wealthy merchant. She however, is promised to the prince and will be married in three year’s time. Then, she will face a gilded slavery all her own in an arranged marriage. The young lovers have until then to find a way to break the betrothal. And so, the quest of a lifetime begins.
Josiah lives out his three year quest with a series of characters: Hobby, his young orphaned sidekick, Abdullah, his archery mentor, and the wizened Hasid Bin Yosef, who, using metaphors, riddles, and creative challenges, guides Josiah towards the secrets to attaining true success.
Epic Quest is set in 1000 BC, in the Arabian deserts, garden oases, and bustling bazaars and markets. There is a timeless quality to Rossbach’s tidy novel, as Josiah’s tale employs all the usual devices of the hero’s journey: a boy of humble beginnings gains the strength to defeat evil in all its forms and, in the end, faces his own self-doubt. The height of internal struggle is when Josiah must choose between rescuing the abducted prince, who is also Saarah’s betrothed, which is the “right thing to do” or to grasp his final chance at becoming a worldly success in the archery contest he’s been training for.
The challenging choices Josiah faces, along with the clever teachings of his mentors Abdullah and Hasid are at the heart of this book. Since Rossbach takes a more mythic approach to storytelling, using archetypes and symbolism, along with maxims and morals, the characterization remains superficial and the trajectory of the action is predictable.
That being said, Epic Quest is a hero’s tale that explores the relationships between success and failure, risk and caution, bravery and fear, and imparts the age old lesson that doing the right thing, even when it is the hardest thing to do, is what matters most. Younger readers will find these lessons enlightening, while older readers will appreciate the gentle reminder that with power comes responsibility and with hard work and sacrifice, comes success.
Epic Quest is a quick and enjoyable read, instilling basic morals that young and old readers alike will find timeless and sage.
Reviewed by Julia Sorrentino for IndieReader