Review: Decoy (Assassin's Rising #1) by S.B. Sebrick

Guest Reviewed by SCD Goff
SCD specialises in reviewing self-published books, in fact she thrives on it, preferring it to more traditionally published novels. Her reviews are thorough, with good tips for debut authors on what worked well and what didn't, and overall I can guarantee your novels are in good hands.
-SCD Goff's Blog
Decoy (Assassin's Rising #1) by S.B. Sebrick
Publishers: Self-published
Published Date: Sept 2nd 2011
From: Author
My rating:
3.5 out of 5
The last few grueling years of training have served Kaltor well. He’s learned to harness the magic within his body, overcome a stronger opponent, avoid capture, and everything else an assassin-in-training needs to survive.
Or so he thought.
But when those they protect at an excavation site release a demon from the Abyss itself, Kaltor realizes just how poorly prepared they all are for what’s coming. Within a single night, their mining camp of one thousand people plummets to a couple hundred terrified survivors, the majority turned against each other by the demon’s potent abilities. Then he turns towards Shaylis, the largest city in the region, for the next stage of his plan.
In a constant battle of both steel and strategy Kaltor and his friends struggle to delay, deceive and defeat their opponent, who’s spent the last thousand years planning out every detail of her assault to perfection. As the number of casualties mounts and her final plan comes to light, Kaltor is left with only one option. He must draw on the secret power within himself, knowing if his true identity is discovered, his life and the fate of the world, will be changed forever.
S.B Sebrick makes a very promising start – no introductions needed, the reader is sent smash bang into the thick of the action without so much as a by-your-leave. All in one great swoop we are plunged into a world with things like ‘Varadours’, ‘Stunts’  ‘Skin Vision’ and ‘Viper Hounds’. In fact, the author trusts his reader with a lot but risks alienating us by introducing so much so quickly.

There’s a lot going on. The hero must hide his true identity, his true powers, deal with parental relationships, friendships, and a major evil (as well as his guilt for his part in releasing this evil) – not to mention his life’s quest to find his brother. This variety helps keep the action going, and there’s certainly plenty of that. Indeed, one of the author’s skills is in describing battle scenes, which are frequent and satisfying.

On the downside, with so much going on it’s hard to feel emotionally invested in any of it. We don’t really get to know the hero, Kaltor, very well through his actions and decisions, let alone the other characters in the book. His relationships, even with his parents, feel stiff and superficial, though the author does better with Kaltor’s friends, with whom there’s an easy camaraderie and banter. 

My usual complaint stands: the manuscript could have really done with a good strong edit to iron out such problems as ‘He couldn’t understand why Crevan was still impossible to find, despite such blatant circumstances’ and ‘the second part was a lie of course, and the truth only partly so’. There’s also the occasional use of really bad English ‘“If you had not of eaten that recipe you could have been Viper Hound food long before you even got the chance to miss being with the girls.” If I could get my hands on this manuscript, I’d also want to edit out some pretty flimsy clich├ęs (“You have a good heart. Don’t ever let them take that from you” would be the first to get the sack).

Despite having a lot of the elements required for exciting, interesting fiction, the novel never quite ignites. We never really get to know about the things that matter; the hero, his loved ones, and the world he’s fighting to protect are all held at arm’s length, which is a disappointment.

If the author could learn the trick of placing his reader in the action, allowing his characters to change and grow according to decisions they must make, if he could get us to understand what’s really at stake in this fascinating world that he’s created – if he could marry all this with better dialogue and his skill with pace and world-building, we would really have something here.

Even still, there’s a lot to like from this promising author. His innovation, imagination and ability to describe action and move a story forward are excellent building blocks, and I have high hopes that more will come.
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