Man, it sure has been a while, huh?
Yes, I know that the month of February has not been dead as I thought it would be, but I have been focusing on manga for such a long time that I had forgotten about a book that I have had on the back burner for quite some time, and, while waiting for the last of the preorders to arrive, I have finally found the time to get to it.
Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called Salvation by Weston Kincade.
After surviving countless struggles they face in escaping from a PASTOR facility, Madelin and her friends find themselves in a post-apocalyptic world where nothing is as once was, and the group tries to figure out what to do about Leodenin and deal with the predicament of one of their allies.
However, the five do not get much time to rest, as Leodenin finds them and Madelin begins to discover that things at the PASTOR facility she came from have started to become worse, and the group must deal with both threats, if they want to have a happy ending.
While it has been a while since I read the first book in the Altered Realities series, Invisible Dawn, and I meant to get to this far earlier than I did, I must say that I really liked this book.
From the very first moment that I opened up and started reading this book, I did not want to put it down, much like Invisible Dawn and A Life of Death: The Golden Bulls.
Now, some of you may be groaning, because hardly any of the books that I have reviewed recently failed to catch my interest with the first few pages, but it takes a lot of talent to capture a reader's interest very early on, and some books, such as The Book Thief, took too long to capture my interest.
However, Weston has proven to be a great writer time and again by being able to capture my attention, regardless of how many flaws I have noticed in his work, and proves himself to be a fairly competent writer, which makes sense with the background that I stated he had when I interviewed him back in 2013 and what he has been able to help people achieve, according to his Amazon page.
If he was not able to pull this off, I would not have been as impressed with his work as I am, even if I do not see anything written from him beyond 2015, which makes me kind of sad, and hope to see him come back to the field of writing soon, even though he probably has his own things to deal with.
If I had to say why this was so engrossing, aside from picking up around where the previous book in the series left off, it is because the book was fairly easy to follow, in comparison to Weston Kincade's earlier works.
Back in Invisible Dawn, I had troubles keeping up with the story because of something that I called a meanwhile moment, which was when the book not only shifted perspectives but backed all the way up to events that happened prior to what I had already read and then going forward, and I had called him out on it.
Here, however, such moments did not occur at all and I felt like I was watching a movie, as opposed to reading a book.
Seeing as this was published after the sequel to A Life of Death, according to goodreads, which says that this book was published in September 2013 and The Golden Bulls came out in December 2012, I would not expect anything less because the sequel to A Life of Death showed major improvements from what I saw when I read Weston's other works.
This is what I want to see a writer, because I do not think that any reader would like it too much if their favorite writer started getting worse, though Agatha Christie herself wrote books that were not great either when she was alive, so I do have to give the writers a break, and Weston Kincade was really able to deliver.
I also liked how Weston incorporated religion into his work in a manner that religion should be relegated to.
As many of you guys should probably know from my recent reviews, I have become quite dissatisfied with the overall culture of the church and parish that I attend because many of the members want to gather up new members and try to convince them that they are God's church and that the big goal is to return to God by completely, or almost completely, conforming to their standards, but they forget the true purpose of religion.
Back in my review of Yona of the Dawn Volume 3, I noted that I liked how Ik-su accepted everyone, regardless of whether they believed gods or a god existed or not, and that his goal was to help people rediscover the courage to live their lives by passing on the words of the gods, and that gave me the impression that that was the true purpose of religion, not trying to get people to do things just because it is commanded by people that claim to be or are called prophets, even if they may not actually be prophets.
In this series, Daniel, one of Madelin's companions, has been suffering because of everything had done in the past and continues to suffer for much of the book, while he, like Kenshin Himura from Rurouni Kenshin, tries to atone for the lives that he took, and he eventually comes across some entities known as Pazzege'tuk who teaches him some concepts that would seem kind of similar to FMA's "All is One and One is all" mantra, which is not all that surprising, considering that FMA is one of Weston's favorite anime, though I should have asked him if that was the 2003 adaptation or the more recent 2009 adaptation, which is known as FMA Brotherhood where I live, and he eventually becomes more content with life, even though some of his companions now think that he is a religious nut.
Seeing this kind of change in Daniel, it kinds of reaffirmed my observation that religion, or even religious belief, is meant more to help people sort out their problems and find the courage to continue living, even if that pain never disappears, and makes me want to applaud the work that Weston Kincade did even more than his past work has.
Honestly, if religion, especially the one I attend, were presented in this kind of light, as opposed to an our way is the only way to happiness view, I would have be a lot more open to fiction that shines a positive light on religion because it would not come off as propaganda, like it often does.
Unfortunately, even though I have not read every piece of literature written by strongly religious, this does not seem like it will change any time soon, because of the clichéd plotline of people improving their lives because they found God, or, in the case of writers that I known to be members of the church that I attend, people will get the impression that the work is too favorable towards the church, with the exception of Orson Scott Card, whose most well-known works does not seem to feel like propaganda, and Bruce Newbold, whose work felt very imaginative and did not seem to be propaganda either, even though elements of his religion were kind of obvious, and I will still kind of cringe any time I hear that a writer belongs to the same church as me, mainly due to the fact that many of the works my church leaders recommend are too favorable of the church, unless I am familiar with that writer's work.
Still, that does not mean that Weston, or any other writer, should not be applauded for having religious-like teachings be doing the thing that they should be doing. Nice job, Weston.
Another nice thing that I liked about this work was how the characters actually felt real and believable.
Now, Weston Kincade has not really had too much trouble creating fairly realistic characters, especially considering how some of the adults in A Life of Death acted just teenagers, and he generally does a good job showing what is motivating a character to act a certain way, but, unfortunately, a lot of fiction out there does not really have this kind of element.
For example, Sword Art Online, a series that both Weston and I like, does not always do the best job of making characters feel human, either because they do not get fleshed, or, in the case of Kirito, who is probably the biggest known example of the former, even in the first novel, hardly ever loses or fails to accomplish his goal when he comes on the scene, and does deserve the hate that it gets because of that aspect.
Here, however, Weston continues to make his characters feel real by fleshing them out, by showing their physical and mental demons, and has them encounter both success and failure in what they set out to accomplish, and not just because Weston wanted to create a setback to continue the story, whereas Sword Art Online's Fairy Dance arc just felt like it was added in to pad things out.
This is how fiction is supposed to be written, and if Weston was not able to maintain this aspect in his work, I would have been severely disappointed in him, because I want him to succeed so badly.
Fortunately, since it did not seem like the quality of his work faltered, I can give him another major round of applause.
The thing that I liked most about this work though was that I learned more about PASTOR and its innerworkings.
While not everything has been revealed, since I suspect that there were supposed to be more books in the Altered Realities series, I liked how it was revealed that what happened to Madelin was not just a special case.
From what I remember of Invisible Dawn, it is made clear that PASTOR killed Madelin's parents so that they could get their hands on her, but this made everyone in PASTOR look like an organization that was truly evil.
However, most of us know that not every member of a group is some evil person that has been corrupted by the worst states of greed and apathy, and, in this book, Weston introduces somebody from Madelin's past that learned the truth a left PASTOR, when he realized that they took his son, when the workers believed that all of the children were orphans, not children that became orphaned because of what the organization's actions.
This made me want to know more about the organization itself and why many of their operatives used a title that is usually associated with catholic priests, especially considering that Father Brown, one of the most famous fictional detectives, is a catholic priest, which gives me an incentive to go out find the next book in the series, which sadly does not exist and will not, unless Weston decides to come back to series some day.
Seriously, this how to hook a reader with a series, and not too many people can do that.
Then again, with the kind of trilogies that are published where I live, the third book tends to be the worst, and I am not too sure if Weston would have broken that pattern, though the writing ability that he has displayed in his previous works makes me a bit hopeful.
For now, I just feel like giving Weston applause for being able to maintain my interest with this series, and making his evil organization a bit more realistic than if everyone in PASTOR gave off a cultist vibe.
Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly, at least that could stand out on its.
Although I liked the book, there are some issues.
However, aside from thing that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, which are fairly minimal, there were only two things that bothered me.
First, there was a conversation that did not make sense.
In the first chapter after the prologue, Juno and Jedd get into a discussion of auras and how Jedd could see them after leaving the world of the vampires, but things become a bit incomprehensible.
After Jedd states that he can see aura when he astrally projects himself, Weston has Jedd asking, "You can still see the auras, even when not on the swamp world we escaped from?", and has Jedd waves off the question.
This does not make any sense at all.
That piece of dialogue should have had Juno issuing the question, because it is not technically possible for Jedd to wave himself off in this kind of conversation.
In all of the works that Weston has wrote, and that I have read, he does not seem to have this kind of problem at all, most likely because such things are normally removed when it is time to proofread and edit, but nobody seemed to catch this problem at all.
What happened, Weston? You have done a great job of things until now, and this slips through?
While I want to say that this may be a problem with the edition I got, and I am sure that he will be willing to send me a new ebook with the correction made, since he said in my review that he would look for and fix some of the issues that I reported, as he does not want future readers to have those same problems, I cannot because this book is no longer available and the only way to get a copy of it is from people who already have a copy, such as Weston and myself, so I do not know if there are any later editions.
Still, just because Weston made a blunder like this, that does not mean I do not want to support his work, but I am going to refrain from giving away my copy, which I originally planned to offer, as the title is no longer in print, until I get a fixed version, if it is possible, and I can still reach Weston with the contact info that I have.
I hope that Weston does not make these issues if and when he comes back as a writer, because he has impressed me, and I like how he tried to make me and all of his other readers satisfied, so I am not as mad at him or his editors and proofreaders as I was at Yen Press for what they did with Judge Volume 6.
For now, I am just going to label this a minor issue, even though it is quite confusing, because it does not ruin the flow of the story too much and I do not want anybody going to find and burn down his house over this.
The thing that I hated the most though was how this book ended.
This something that Weston normally does fairly well with, and it was not entirely bad, but is currently the last book in the series and it leaves off questions that should have been answered.
Yes, Weston did plan from the beginning to make this a series, though I do not remember if he said it was going to be a trilogy or longer, but it looks like something happened and Weston completely forgot about series, or it may have not done as well as he had hoped.
The way this ends makes me think that there is more to the story, and that is not something that I want to see, especially consider the A Life of Death series never ended like this, at least as far as I can remember.
A Life of Death had a definitive end, and one in which the series could have ended right then and there, but this one does not.
This is why I hate series in prose fiction. There is hardly ever a good spot to end the series if it gets cancelled, and can make a writer look worse than they actually are.
If Weston not only wrote a satisfying end, which he at least did, but also made it feel as complete as how A Life of Death felt, I would have felt a lot more satisfied than I am.
Please, Weston, do not anything as disappointing as this in your future work, especially if you ever decide to continue the Altered Realities series because you are somebody that I actually want to see succeed because you seem like a nice person and a great writer, but I cannot overlook this issue just because of what kind person you are and I want to overlook it.
Fortunately, as I have already stated, there were only two things and bothered me, so nothing else can disappoint me.
While the work had only two issues, one of which I really want to overlook, but cannot, they both kept this book from being the best that it could be, though it is not a horrible book at all.
Despite the fact that there were two problems with the book, the good outweighed them enough to make this definitely worth reading, if you can even find a copy.
I recommend this to fans of Weston Kincade and Invisible Dawn.
As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, and if Weston is willing to fix the more minor of the two issues and neither he, nor his current publisher, have issues with it, I can give you a copy, but I do not think that this will give you the best impression of his work.
If you were lucky enough to get your hands on and read this book, what are your thoughts on Salvation? Please leave a comment letting everyone know why you liked or hated this book, especially if your reasons are different from mine.
Also, if you liked this review and want to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon, so that can continue writing up reviews and find great works from other writers out there.
Update: Weston got into contact with me and told me that this book is now called To Kill an Assassin, and the series is now entitled The Priors, which he believes fixes the problems mentioned, but neither of us can guarantee that.
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