Jonathan Staten’s WARDENS opens with explosive action: space combat, magic, gunfire, and the introduction of a ruthless and unstoppable evil. And it just keeps ramping up from there. Jansen Harrison is a loner. Adrift in small town life during the day and fighting in underground boxing matches at night, he has no real ambitions or ideas as to where his life could go. But that all changes the day that a mysterious military man claiming to be an intergalactic marine with mystic powers appears. The man is the commander of the Wardens, crusaders for justice and keepers of the peace. And his revelations about Jansen’s father – Richard Harrison’s death and secret life – changes the course of Jansen’s life forever.
The story follows Jansen as he claims the mantle of Warden, Augur of Protection, and seeks to avenge his father’s death at the hands of Victus, Conqueror of Worlds. Oh yeah, and save the universe. No biggy. Through this young hero’s eyes readers will see other planets and societies, cool high-tech weaponry, stunning magical powers, and meet demons and death dealers. The flow of the plot is a little jumpy, sometimes leaping across the galaxy between chapters or months at a time. It’s a story that can feel like it is on rails at times, and it is often not conflict or characters that drives the plot but exciting scenery.
Unfortunately, this leaves little room for character development. Readers may find themselves wishing for more of Christina the badass lady marine who uses fire and fury to subdue the enemy. Or stoic Leo, who controls shadows and wields a wicked katana. Yes, they are incredibly cool, and it is great fun to watch them fight. But why stop at just watching, at just telling readers how awesome they are? Delve into their motivations and they become infinitely more compelling. WARDENS would greatly benefit from exploring how to “show not tell” and fleshing out all the excellent characters contained within.
There is an action movie-like quality to the books – not so much depth of character or setting, but breadth and showiness. However, the care and enthusiasm put into the creation of this vast science fiction universe is palpable. It is easy forgive the small faults of the story and let oneself enjoy the world it is set in because of the obvious joy the author takes in bringing it to life. Because it’s almost impossible not to share in that joy, especially when the package is such an enticing mishmash of science, magic, and Saturday morning cartoon style action. A true smorgasbord for science fiction fans that need a break from boring normalcy.
Fun and uncomplicated, WARDENS blasts readers across the galaxy for a science fiction actin thrill ride that feels like Marvel comics meets video game Halo.
~Lauren Napoli for IndieReader