Book Review: Catalyst (The Passage of Hellsfire—book 1) by Marc Johnson

This fantasy novel follows a character named Hellsfire who (as you can guess by the name) was born with the power of fire. As a young adult, he discovers his power—and how dangerous it is. Still, he used it to save the princess, a girl he almost immediately develops feelings for. Confronting his mother, Hellsfire learns that she (sort of) knew about his power, and that he is supposed to go out into the world and seek help and answers.

He does, and finds a wizard who decides to train him. Partway into his training, though, Hellsfire feels that the princess is in trouble, and he decides to leave his training before becoming a full-fledged wizard. He travels back to the kingdom and finds that the Premier has been using his power for sinister purposes. In a coming-of-age tale, Hellsfire must help save the day.

I’m picky about fantasy tales. I absolutely love The Lord of the Rings, but I can’t help

comparing many other fantasy works to Tolkien’s, especially when wizards, elves, dwarves, and humans are involved. That said, the strength of this novel is its plot. It picks up by the halfway point, and you’ll find yourself wanting to finish to see what happens. The weakness is the telling of the story. It’s told through first person point of view, and at times,

especially in the first half of the tale, it drags because there is sometimes too much detail included. The main character narrates in a process-oriented way, often listing the step-by-step process he uses to accomplish things. There were parts of the process that could have been skipped. The first person perspective also limits the author’s ability to seamlessly weave description into the tale, so I often found myself craving details (imagery) about the world. The benefit of the first person perspective was that Hellsfire became a likeable character for me.

It’s a decent read for those who love fantasy. I would have loved this book in high school when I was going through my fantasy phrase. The adult in me craved a bit more description and depth.

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