by Editor Michael Brooks
For most of my reading career I have been primarily interested in educational/academic works. But, some years ago, when Caiti and I got married, my wife coaxed me into the wonderful world of fiction. I had always lacked in an interest for it. Now, I can truly enjoy a great story.
The first books in this new venture that I read were the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit, and the Harry Potter series. All of those were supremely enjoyable and have cemented my love for good stories in me forever. Since then, I have read all kinds of fiction: thriller, historical, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and all kinds in-between.
So, when I discovered that my brother was soon to publish his debut novel, the fruit of years of labor, I was very excited. I sought to read critically and evaluate objectively as I read. After 488 pages of reading, I found I loved it and was engrossed throughout. It is an impressive story and I cannot wait to read his next work. Below is a synopsis and review of C.K. Brooks’ “A Captive’s Portion” (Links to the book can be found below!)
In A Captive’s Portion the reader is thrust into the world of Sanvar. A Greco-Roman-like/classical empire, Sanvar is a world power.
Sanvar is ruled by a mysterious but dangerous man named Bandero. His power and political legacy is most apparent in his building of the orphanages which house many of Sanvar’s forgotten or discarded youth. These orphanages train the forgotten and discarded youth to serve the state in some way. For those that show true promise they may be placed in Bandero’s Imperial Guard, the elite warriors of Sanvar. For others it may mean placement in the Sanvarian Army, which is often considered a relief. For many, the awful reality is that the orphanages often mean preparation for placement into the gladiatorial games. These viscous games are public duels between gladiators, to the death, as entertainment. These gladiators are seen as public and civil servants and propagated that way to the masses.
In the book we meet Silas who is about to graduate from one of the lesser-known orphanages. He and his two friends are waiting where they will go on the day of graduation. Silas is selected to be a gladiator and is told he holds true promise. During the story we will follow Silas as he finds his place in this world while deciding how to stand up for the value of his friends and fellow orphans. He knows it needs to stop. But, he faces decisions on all sides. Will he take the easy way out and serve Sanvar? Or, will he decide to secretly work for one of the many resistance groups that are working underground to undermine Bandero and rid Sanvar of this wretched practice?
The book also follows Isla. She too, like Silas came from the orphanages, but was chosen to be a part of Bandero’s Imperial Guard. Isla is very gifted, respected, and good at her job but finds herself in a difficult position. She knows the evils of the orphanages and wants to do something about it. In the story we follow her journey as she wrestles with decisions about loyalty, betrayal, love, and how to fight for what is right. Isla must work through complex difficulties and make decisions that may end up losing her everything. Will she risk all that she has for those that do not have a voice?
Below I will rate different aspects of this book. I do strongly recommend that this book is worth the time and investment. It was a tremendously enjoyable read with a strong finish leaving readers wanting more.
Plot & Story – 9/10
The story of A Captive’s Portion is intriguing and keeps you engaged throughout. It has a familiar setting but in an unfamiliar place. The author is smart in using a classical world setting to create the feel for his book while also creating unique elements that set it apart. In some ways the story will remind readers of the Hunger Games while in other ways readers may be reminded of more traditional fantasy writers that world-build with larger conflicts and longer vision. He blends both together for a truly interesting read.
The conflict and tension of the book is immediately set up. It being the first book in a series it does take some time to set us in place, but none of it feels trivial or unnecessary.
Once the conflict is set up and the characters become known, the story moves at an exhilarating pace. Written in first-person, the book begins to really fly. The twists and turns taking place are smart and feel true to the characters. I kept wondering after every few chapters, “what will be so-and-so’s next move?
The plot really surprises in some moments while also not frustrating or letting readers down. The balance struck in that way is strong. But, in my mind, the final 150 pages are worth the entire book. You need the first 2/3 of the book, but the finish is incredible. It was a page-turning read towards the end with a conclusion full of emotions. The author concludes the story well, in a satisfying way, while also creating a lot of excitement for the upcoming book.
Characters & Human Experience – 9/10
To me, the most important part of the book, is the human element. Without good characters, the book only has so much enjoyment. A Captive’s Portion did not disappoint.
Both characters are wildly different, and yet completely human. You see their failings, frailty, mistakes, and even their hopelessness. But, you also witness their resilience, character, humor, and personality. Silas and Isla, as well as the other characters, begin to feel like people you know by the end of the book. That they are people, out there, somewhere.
Silas and Isla are relateable, real, and worthy of admiration. Through their lens you see all of human experience. You see how they deal with relationships, good and bad. You see how they process moral decisions or hardship. Loss, gain, love, war, and betrayal are all at the forefront.
But, we cannot forget the villain. To me, the best stories have a villain you kind of like. During the story Bandero is shown to be somewhere in the gray area. Or at least, you don’t think he is as bad as the resistance groups seem to think. To me, the book’s crowing achievement is the presentation of the villain. A foe that is powerful, dangerous, but not totally unrelateable. There is something there that pulls at you. At least it did me.
Writing Skill – 8/10
The writing of this book is very good. The author spends time describing the inner life of his characters without it stalling the story. The combat sequences are written particularly strongly. Giving you vivid and helpful descriptions while not being too awkward or lengthy. The dialogue is not wooden (such a problem in fantasy literature!) and comes off as real and effective. Some very minor improvements can be done but none of those improvements harm the book or the reader’s experience.
Overall Rating – 8.6/10 (5 Stars)
In Conclusion I fully recommend this book! I believe it will be enjoyed by anyone that reads it. On top of that, it is an enriching book as it deals with questions of human worth and value, state or civil religion, civil obedience/disobedience, and how we should respond to it. There is a lot of depth to this book and one well worth the read.
You can find the book in print on Amazon or Kindle. It is available on Google Play as well. Find links below! Get the digital version for just $8.99! Support a new author and read a great book!