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Book: The Rise of Nazil - Secret of the Seven by Aaron-Michael Hall

Book Review: The Rise of Nazil - Secret of the Seven by Aaron-Michael Hall

star rating  5 stars, 1 review
categories: Book, Epic Fantasy, Adult Fantasy, Fantasy Romance, Battle, High Fantasy

Aaron-Michael Hall

about this book: The Rise of Nazil is a high fantasy novel set in the mythical world of Faélondul. In the 75th year of Alberoth, the AsZar of Afferea called upon the Guardians. It was at that time the Zaxson of Nazil (Draizeyn Vereux) launched a war against the humans.

Not all those of Nazil agreed with the Zaxson. The First Chosen, Pentanimir Benoist was one of them. He led the elite Nazilian guard and was pledged to marry the daughter of the Zaxson. Pentanimir struggled against the love he held for a human and the tenets inculcated by the priestly caste called the Cha.

With the fate of the lands hanging in the balance, could Pentanimir lay down the fallacious honor of his position and join with the humans to dispel this threat? With the help of the Protectors and their beasts, could Faélondul be saved?

The Rise of Nazil is intended for mature readers. Due to graphic scenes and content, it is targeted for adult fantasy lovers.

This is the first in a series. Seed of Scorn (book II) is due for release in February 2016 and Piercing the Darkness (book III) is due for release in September 2016. The fourth book, The Shifter is currently being written.

The Rise of Nazil was written over a decade. At times, I would write several chapters and then put the book away. However, in 2013, I decided it was time to finish the novel. When I read over the MS, I can tell the change in my writing style over the years. It is subtle, but if you pay close attention, it is there. Instead of trying to "fix" this, I enjoyed the progression. Since the beginning and end were written years ago, it is merely parts of the middle that are actually in my current voice.

Some of the scenes in this book are graphic and heart wrenching. I have been asked why/how I could write such scenes. The only possible answer is that they were necessary. I do not enjoy torture nor abuse of any kind. However, the Nazilians were a brutal people. You do not sugar coat such truths and still give an honest portrayal of their character. It is my hope that my readers take these scenes as they are meant. They are not the entire 544 page novel. The story here is a detailed and interesting one. It is a beginning…a beginning of many wonderful things to come.

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I have to ask myself an obvious question after reading "The Rise of Nazil" by Aaron Michael Hall: Why did I like it so much? I usually ask myself that question after really enjoying a book or movie. As an engineer and manager, I spend a lot of time in the real world, so when I'm especially taken with a work of fiction it often provides an insight to examine it to better understand how and why it grabbed me. So, as an engineer, I'm going to briefly break down this adventure fantasy by a relatively unknown author and try to understand what just happened. For me, anyway, the most useful method is to examine plot, characters, and dialogue, and try to see why they work (or not) and how they work together.

So, starting with the plot, it kind of fits into the boy-meets-girl thing, but it gets past that right away. After a short prologue involving a group of divine beings called the Guardians discussing past events in the land of Faelondul, we meet a beautiful human woman named Brahanu who is lost in a storm, injured, and horrified to find herself near Nazil. Nazil is the capital city of a cruel and arrogantly xenophobic race whose ruler, the Zaxson, is a particularly unpleasant fellow who extracts tribute from the human villages in the land while enslaving and abusing the humans. The Nazilian culture views the humans as savages and any humans captured near the city are tortured horribly. Brahanu has the very good fortune of being discovered by Pentanimir. He is First Chosen, the leader and champion of the elite palace guards of Nazil, whose motto is "Honor Above All." Pentanimir is smitten by Brahanu's beauty. Torn between duty and love, he makes the difficult choice to escort the injured girl to safety to a mysterious secret village rather than taking her prisoner. As he prepares for the journey, we meet his younger brother Danimore, who is also a member of the guard. The plot moves from Brahanu's flight to scenes inside the citadel of the city, where we encounter some of the human slaves, including Hushar and Zeta and start to learn of the cruel ways of the Nazilian slave-masters.

The plot continues to advance between Brahanu and Pentanimir's adventures – and some epic love-making along the way – and developments in the city and in Cazaal, Brahanu's village. The author deftly introduces a number of new and intriguing characters through the unpredictable plot turns: the evil uncle Oxilon, the sadistic Zaxson with his son and daughter, and Brahanu's family in Cazaal and her betrothed, Itai. As Pentanimir and Brahanu journey together, he begins to experience doubts regarding Nazil and what he has taken for granted about humans and Nazilians. The human and the Nazilian warrior fall deeply in love and although they reach the mysterious village of Bandari and meet even more fascinating and inter-related characters, they find they must make the difficult choice to separate in order to … well; I don't want to spoil it for other readers. By the time I got this far in the story I was hooked. The plot pulled me rapidly through a very exciting battle with the Guardians and Nazilians, and a final climactic attack on the citadel itself. There were places in the story where I literally had to stop for a moment and catch my breath.

So, in short, the plot has at least a little of just about everything that makes for a good story: love, courage, adventure, betrayal, battles, and struggles with honor and duty and virtue. It's all tied together with unpredictable twists and turns that really kept me turning pages.

Okay, characters. Aaron Michael Hall has written a story that almost compares to some of Charles Dickens' novels in terms of the number of characters and the extent to which they are inter-related. In this sense, the plot and characters work together very well: the plot's twists and turns reveal not only the characters themselves but bring out surprising connections among them. In addition, just as in the best of Tolkien, some of the characters are not human at all. We meet warrior giants in exile, and have to rejoice with them when one of the humans from Bandari helps them overcome their ancient failures in serving the Guardians. In a flashback, we meet Pentanimir's father Manifir and learn more about Nazil and its gods and culture as well as a greater understanding of what motivates the First Chosen. We experience the selfless, heroic love of Itai for Brahanu.

In all, the characters are revealed as very human and believable, all with failings and weaknesses, most with virtue and interesting personalities. I found myself connecting with almost all of the good guys at different times in the story, and getting downright angry at some of the more evil ones.

It took me a little while to get used to the dialogue. Hall uses some unusual constructions and speaking styles to set Faelondul apart from our world. For example, there are not contractions in the dialogue. Once I accepted this as being consistent with the fantasy world the author was creating, I found it very natural and enjoyable. The way the characters speak often provides very good insights into their natures. Hall often employs a very unique usage which I found fascinating and delightful.

To summarize, the major elements of the story – plot, characters, and dialogue – all worked very well together to establish a very believable and compelling adventure. I found myself cheering for the heroes and righteously indignant with the villains. The author has a powerful style of writing and the story was consistent and well-edited throughout. It was a fast, fun read and I'm looking forward to more installments from Aaron Michael Hall. [by Mike]

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