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Review of Mythborn Series by Vijay Lakshman

By / March 8, 2016 / no comments

Mythborn is the story about people forced to make bad choices to save the world from destruction. And it’s also about kung fu fantasy fighting – a lot of it.

Mythborn is Vijay Lakshman’s first novel and an indie fantasy.

This review covers the whole series out so far:  as of writing, the first two books: Mythborn: Rise of the AdeptsMythborn: Bane of the Warforged

My overall feeling is that the author delivers a decent action-packed fantasy tale for the casual fantasy reader who appreciates easy-to read, action-heavy fantasy with a fast-moving plot. It is a series clearly influenced by the old Dungeon & Dragon novels — an action heavy tale borrowing heavily from RPG-like characters and settings.

Mythborn, especially the first book in the series, features more than a little kung fu thrown into it – so if you are fans of ninjas, karate or kung fu, well, you are going an extra big dose of hand-to-hand action scenes.

As indie fantasy goes, Mythborn is a good effort on the part of the author with above-average copy editing. If you manage your expectations so you know exactly what you are getting and enjoy this particular flavor of fantasy (light fantasy that’s action heavy), you’ll likely find Mythborn enjoyable. However, if you want a complex character-driven fantasy with detailed world building and subtle plotting (core elements you expect from a traditionally published fantasy book), this series is lacking.

What I Didn’t Like

There were are some issues with this book that  dragged down the quality of the story over the first two books in the series. There is a final book coming out, so perhaps things will be more explained in the final volume.

Keep in mind, this is an indie fantasy book, so many of these are forgivable depending on how picky you are when reading indie fantasy. I am, in this review, applying a higher standard however.

My major complaint with the Mythborn series (so far with the two books I’ve read of it) is that the author was so intent on making fast-paced action-filled plot that he sacrifices character development and the world building in favor of pushing the story forward. By the end of the first two books in the trilogy, I felt the plot and characters mostly exist only to funnel you, the reader, from one action scene to the next with the world haphazardly developed from scene to scene, almost as though the author is creating the world building (and magic system) on the spot as each scene progresses.

World Building. We Need it

As such, the world building is pretty thin with little given to flesh out the boundaries of the world beyond the immediate scenes the characters find themselves in.

The character development, also, even after two books, is mediocre. I found I had little empathy with the characters; by the end of the second book, I actually didn’t care about the characters. This is because most of the characters are not really developed – they are mostly just animated puppets to carry forward the story plot and perform the aerial acrobatics of the Kung Fu fighting scenes. The second book does improve some of the characters, attempting to flesh a few of them out more. So characterization does improve by book two…just not enough.

My other major complaint was that the magic system is lacking in direction. I felt it was a confusing jumble of special abilities that varied from magic user to user without any overall governing system.

Magic Should Have Rules

One of the modern trends in fantasy is to create a consistent and developed system of magic. You can perhaps thank people like Tolkien for inventing the idea of how magic works in fantasy, but it’s other authors like Robert Jordan, Patrick Rothfuss, J.K. Rowling, and Brandon Sanderson who have upped our expectations of how magic should be modeled after the rules governing our physical laws of the universe.

In Mythborn, however, the rules governing the magic system are really never set down; the magic users (which are most of the characters in the book) seem to be able to do any number of powerful things at any given moment with nothing specific guiding or limiting these abilities.

In a bad situation and about to die? Hell, just pull out a ‘Blood Golem’ from a cut and have it tear up your enemies. Don’t know what a Blood Golem is, how it works, or what it does? Neither do I and I’ve read the books! Need to prevent magical users from doing magic during a confrontation scene? Tell the readers that magic is blocked due to some ‘X factor’ never heretofore explained.

This  really bothered me. I feel the author’s rampant use of ‘On Demand Magic’ is the real Achilles Heel of this series. And why this is is that I felt if characters needed to solve a problem in the story, they regularly just reach into thin air and pull out some magical X solution to that problem, without explanation or reason, rather than some solution hinted to through good plotting.

This wild inconsistency about the rules of magic detract from the story and overall reading experience.

What I Liked 

Some Plot Twists

The plot and story, as revealed to you by the end of Book 2, are somewhat twisty. Things happen that you don’t necessary expect, which is a good thing. As far as the story threads and plot goes, the Vjay Lakshaman does a pretty good job at plotting out the story; by the end of Book 2, there are some unexpected twists and things are set up nicely for the last book in the series. The author does not pull plots out thin air; he does a good job at keeping the story on track and tied to a consistent plot.

Plot-wise, there’s some attempt at throwing some complexities into the narrative soup : magical users vs non-magical users, doing bad (murder) for the greater good, dilemmas to solve, a cast of (some) morally ambiguous heroes, a few sudden plot twists, and a couple main character deaths over the series.

Some Reworking of Classic Fantasy Tropes

I also like how the author re-works some of the classic fantasy tropes – dwarves, for example are re-imagined and act quite a bit different than the standard Tolkien-inspired vision. There are elves too who are not the usual sort of elves you expect from Tolkien literature. By book two, there’s even ‘angels’ and ‘demons’  of sorts, each exiting with a sort of heaven area and a hell / underworld. However,  angels act more like demons and live in the underworld while the ‘demons’ look more like angels and live in a heaven of sorts.

It’s a reversal of some of the classic tropes we usually see in fantasy, so credit given to the author trying for a bit of originality in a genre heavy with cliched tropes.

Quality Editing

The editing, as already mentioned, is well done for an indie — I did not find many spelling and grammatical errors (which, if you’ve ready any self-published fiction  is prevalent). Because the editing is above average (again, compared to the average self published book), the prose is readable and the narrative easy to follow from start to finish. Unlike many other books in this genre, you won’t be left confused by half-completed sentences, dangling modifiers, or a structural faux pas.

Action + Fasting = Fast Reading

Another strong point with the book here is the plot doesn’t get muddled down with complexities or slow pacing. Lakshman does not try to give you an over complicated story that’s too big for it’s own britches, but rather a tale that’s pretty straight and to the point with the entire structure of the novel aiming to facilitate one thing: non stop action.

Indeed, once you get past the introductory chapters, the story is one long stream of action sequences. In fact, you practically can’t turn a page or two without another battle involving martial arts and magic mayhem. So if you love action heavy fantasy where characters die left and right in the most gruesome ways in a series of one battle after another, you’ll find yourself right at home. Because of this, it’s a fairly easy book to read.

Not everyone wants a complicated fantasy. If action and a blistering pace is what you want, Mythborn will deliver and then deliver even more. A lot of stuff happens, fast. You don’t have to wade through hundreds of pages of world building and filler. The author gets the story moving right away and keeps the story moving along over the two books I read.

Note that in the second book, the pace is a bit more sedate with more effort by the author made to flesh out the characters. The first book, however, focuses on moving the story forward at a lighting pace.

Moral Ambiguity is Present

Lakshman also tries to create several morally ambiguous characters who face the choice of doing wrong things for the right reasons. As such, most of the character are neither good nor bad, just people forced into bad situations with only a set of bad options to choose from. Book 2 puts more emphasis into creating more complex characters who are morally ambitious — you don’t know who is good and who is bad, a theme that carries on mostly through the series. Overall. it’s good to see the author trying to create morally complex characters, especially in a book dedicated mostly to action.

This means there is a bit more complexity to this series over the run-of-the-mill action fantasy — the series doesn’t necessary succeed at this, but the attempt is thereat least. The second book (Mythborn: Bane of the Warforged) made a more dedicated effort than the first book to flesh out some of the bad guys.

The Final Word

Mythborn is an entertaining enough action fantasy. And mostly, it will keep you entertained…and reading. There’s a lot of action, a lot of magical battles, and a good deal of mystical kung fu packed in between the pages.

And the author does a pretty good job at not delineating between who is good and who is evil during the series. Yes, there are bad guys, but who is bad and who is good is ultimately questionable here. Even up until the end of Book 2, I wasn’t sure of the bad guys from the good guys. So the author does a good job at investing some moral complexity to the story and characters.

There are problems that hold the series back from being a great read though: The lack of decent world-building and wildly inconsistent magic system that invents magical abilities on the spot and on demand being the biggest detractors.

When you start reading you’ll see there are large deserts full of nomadic tribes, city states at war, magic aisles of kung-fu monks-in-training – all potentially interesting elements — but when you scratch the surface — even after two books — you soon realize the word is pretty thin and not at all fleshed out. Like one of those old-school kung fu action flicks where the characters beat each other senseless in exotic locales, these scenes are really nothing more than stage backdrops for the action to take place. You really don’t get anything more out of the world building then this.

Having said that, it’s a solid effort and, for the the right type of reader, a good book.

So if you are willing to manage your expectations so you know just what type of story you are getting, the Mythborn series is entertaining indie fantasy.

Overall, I rate this one a 3/5: a good, entertaining read, especially for those who want action, Kung Fu Fighting, and lots of killing.

About the author

Ben

Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!

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