“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ― Roald Dahl

A promising first novel

Aether Warriors ―Dean Ravenola

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Book one of the Aether Warriors series was published by Dean Ravenola when he was just 18. That is enough on its own to impress me. Just putting pen to paper and getting your first book out there can be a very daunting task, and having completed the first step of this journey at such a tender age is no mean feat. The resulting book is a really good example of young-adult fiction, written by someone who clearly knows their reader. It has all the appeal that young-adult fiction should have.

Ordinarily, this is not the type of book I would choose to read, and I will confess I struggled with it a little at first. It took me a while to get into the flow of things, and I eventually realised I was looking at the book the wrong way. So I took a step back, and approached the book as I would have at the age of 14, when I was, like many other teenage girls, obsessed with Harry Potter and Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials. Once I had done this I found I got on much better with the book. It has been a while since I have read something made for a younger audience, and it was quite nice to step back and revisit my adolescence.

Ravenola tells the story of Chase, who, apart from having been abandoned at an orphanage as a baby, seems to be a fairly ordinary teenage boy. That is until one morning, when, bored with life, and the prospect of another day at school he decides to skip lessons, and sneak into town with his best friend. Unbeknownst to him the journey into town will be the one which will change his life forever. Chase finds himself suddenly thrown into a new and unfamiliar world, confronted with the knowledge that he is part of an elite group of children, the ‘Aether Warriors’, who are tasked with defending the side of the righteous in a battle which has been ongoing for centuries.  As chase struggles to comprehend the changes he is going through he encounters magical creatures, love, loss and deception.

I really enjoyed the storyline, it was compelling, and although it seemed as though it was going to be quite predictable, there was a nice twist. That said I did begin to suspect that Ravenola was playing a bit of a double bluff, still I was pleasantly surprised and satisfied by the turn of events.

One aspect of the book I particularly enjoyed is something which really does go hand in hand with a good fantasy story. The detail with which everything is described is fantastic, really giving you a snapshot of the scene ahead of you. I was particularly impressed by the creatures which Ravenola came up with, and the length to which he described Chase’s initial interaction with them.

Some of my favourites descriptions are that of Roger the reslent: “Its face was a squirming mess of vines, thorns jutting out in a circle like jagged teeth….Its eyes glowed with an unearthly green light. The creature stood a good ten feet tall, easily a giant compared to the others. As it swung its massive arms, it roared a low earth-shaking moan”; and Cadler the swamp creature: “Suddenly from the center of the bog, a massive creature erupted out of the water. Reptile-like in appearance, the creature stood on two legs and was about thirteen feet tall. The murky water from the bog poured off the monster’s back as it let out a low growl.”

Another aspect of the fantasy genre which I feel Ravenola dealt with particularly well is creating a main character that readers can see a certain amount of themselves in. I think Chase has the potential to appeal to many young readers; he has a certain realness about him, which first emerges during his initial encounter with Jasmine. From the very beginning Chase is captivated by every aspect of Jasmine, falling for her “beautiful long dirty blonde hair”, “cute thin lips curved into a foxy smile”, and her “green feline eyes”. He even confides in the reader that “Whenever he glanced at her, he felt mesmerized by those eyes, like he couldn’t look away”. I think romance is an important aspect of any book for a teenage audience, as I’m sure most people will agree it would take a robot to get through high school without falling madly in love at some point.

From an editors point of view I was also impressed by the lack of mistakes that I encountered. While there are a couple of minor errors, they are few and far between and do not distract too much from the rest of the text. This is something I dislike about a lot of self-published work, as poor editing can really ruin a book.

Now on to the slightly less positive notes. I think that the character speech could do with some work. I often found that the children spoke as though they were reading a passage of text from an essay. There was over usage of words such as ‘however’, which, although used extensively in writing, are less common in spoken word. At times I feel this can interrupt the flow of the text somewhat, especially during lengthy dialogue.

I also feel as though there are certain elements of the story which do not entirely fit in with the flow of events. Much of the story takes place within an enchanted mansion, and in parts of the world inhabited by magical creatures, as such I found that some of the explanations of events were just a bit too practical.

Overall I feel that the potential of the book far outweighs any slight problems I have encountered. Aether Warriors encompasses everything which makes for a successful young-adult book, and while I would not necessarily advise it for an older audience, I would be more than likely to recommend it to my teenage siblings.

Many thanks go to Dean Ravenola for providing a free copy of the book for review purposes.

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