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October 24, 2017

Review: A Pawn of Destiny by Harold Boardman

by MK French

Darquin is a young man living in the Roman Empire who is banished from home. He is all but conscripted into the army along with his cousin, and soon travels to faraway lands he didn't think he would ever visit.

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A Pawn of Destiny
September 2017; 978-1520908878
ebook, print (292 pages); historical fiction
The book opens with Darquin's father Kirian being tricked into slavery, his brief time fighting in Spartacus' slave army, and then escape into the countryside. Prior to reading this, I was only aware of Spartacus through the television show. (Very, very not for children, by the way!) As a result, a few of the names and concepts from the early chapters were somewhat familiar. There really wasn't any description at all in the beginning, and events were glossed over with no detail whatsoever, making me feel more like I was reading a history textbook than a novel. I understand that Kirian isn't the main character, but the rest of the book has the similar dry feel to it. Even sex scenes described in detail feels distant, and there is little emotional connection with the characters despite it later being referred to as "a passionate love." More emotion is shown through conversations, which are altogether too brief and scattered sparsely throughout the text.

This novel is obviously very researched, and it's richly detailed. However, the details are more in the locations, movement of troops and how the Roman empire is woven together. There are few physical descriptions of characters, occasionally hair, skin or eye colors, or distinguishing features. Otherwise, characters are referred to by name as actions are flatly given out, one after the other. Even the battles described don't seem very tense or emotionally engaging for me as a reader. For example, we get this: "Sword clashed with sword and the air was filled with grunts, groans, and screams of both men and horses." In the very next sentence, the bandits retreat and leave behind one hundred dead. This could have been a great opportunity to really see what the fighting is like, to feel what they're going through and get a sense of the desperation of those hundred dying men. Instead, it's little more than a footnote that could have been left out. The entire novel is written in this manner, making it very difficult for me to care about any of the events described.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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