THE CORRAL RING by Thomas Richards, intended as the first volume in a new fantasy series, The Ambrosius Chronicles: Awakening, has many likeable ingredients. For one thing, there’s the humor Richards brings to the table as the book opens, with Ezekiel Stone reluctantly moving towards his future as a new Grand Tower guard, while silently bemoaning the fact that he just doesn’t have enough magic in him to become the sorcerer’s apprentice he really wants to be. Then there’s dazzling yet no-nonsense Laura Tailor, and it’s nice seeing a woman develop as another featured player in this mystical saga set in the medieval times of long ago. All kinds of magical characters abide in this imaginary world too, of course, with large and small roles to play — wizards, druids, nymphs, changelings, sidhes, sprites, demons — along with enchanted and coveted items boasting potent powers, most notably the mysterious Corral Ring itself.
The story starts off strong as it introduces the lay of the land, who is connected to who, and what threats to the kingdom are percolating. However, the momentum begins to falter when its time to effectively establish and unfurl the plot. In order to be structurally sound and maintain attention, any novel — most especially a tome of this length — must hook readers in, and then hold them with ever-escalating dramatic tension that builds the point of the story towards its satisfying climax and conclusion (even if sequels are intended). This the book does not do. Somewhere before midway through its 625+ pages, the numerous supernaturally-infused battles and escapes all begin to sound the same. Defining the terms of this made-up world — such as what thaumaturges are and whether demon possession is real or not, etc. — is potentially quite interesting. But too frequent outlining and defining of elements eventually begins to make the novel seem as if it is more a behind-the-scenes primer intended to set the stage for future books, while keeping track of setting/character fundamentals never fully gets off the ground.
Thomas Richards’ THE CORRAL RING walks the fine line between between creating a fantasy world alive with richly proffered details versus one bogged down by too much description and too little adequate character and story development and ends up leaning more towards the latter.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader