Monday, June 23, 2014

The Narrowing Path by David Normoyle - Great story – Great characters – Great beginning to the series!

Thirteen-year-old Bowe is the last surviving member of the Bellangers, one of the four ruling families of Arcandia. Soon after his birth, the entire clan which was on the cusp of financial ruin committed mass suicide/murder. Somehow, the baby Bowe, survived or was missed only to be discovered by leaders of the other families as they surveyed the tragedy inside the Bellanger mansion. One leader takes the baby back to his family to be reared by one of the childless wives of the harem as her own.

Every six years, the course of the moon (Helion) causes the planet to come so close to their sun that every living thing on the planet would burn up if they did not seek safety in a series of huge caverns that extend under the ocean. However, the capacity of the caverns are not infinite, and to keep the population size suitable for their sexennial retreat to safety, young teenage males of the ruling families are tested with 8 selected for entry to the “Refuge.” All the others are left to burn up and die or kill themselves.

“The Green Path” is the 50 day test of the boys’ skills, ingenuity, and potential usefulness to the families. Some are good fighters. Some excel at building alliances and trading. Others are assassins and seek to kill off the competition. At the end, each family will select one boy who will then make his own selection of another ‘green’ to accompany him into entry into the family and the safety of the caverns for the 2 week period of the Infernam.

As the only surviving member of a lost house, Bowe has always known that he was to be killed the first day of the test and, consequently, is ranked at the bottom of the list of boys for selection. At 13, he’s at the youngest age of the competitors and unskilled as a fighter. When another boy is suddenly killed on the traditional first day of the test, Bowe begins to understand that he may be able to find a way to survive. The game, and the action, is on.

The author has developed an interesting world with a harsh environment and rigid traditions for his characters to populate. There are some mysterious subplots which give the main storyline an added robustness. These subplots are not reconciled but lead us to book 2, The Treacherous Path.

One thing I really liked is that the author pretty much kept action, dialogue, and reaction true to the age group. Yes, the characters faced a horrible situation – one that they were trained from birth to expect, fear and agonize over. They had to do grown-up things and make grown-up choices earlier than what we would expect but when confronted with a girl his own age in a romantic situation, Bowe stuttered and stammered, blushed, and wondered what to say like most boys of that age and experience level.

The story will keep you guessing as to who will live and who will “fall from the path,” die. (Spoiler: The author is not afraid to kill off major characters.) It is fast paced and intriguing. I think it will hook you from the very beginning and have you staying up past when you should have shut down your Kindle for the night.

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