The Summoned King
By Dave Neuendorf
As a reviewer, as a READER I want to love (love with a capitol “L”) every book I’m given the chance to read. Reading, for me, is more than a pastime; it’s a vacation. I want to lose myself between the pages of each book I read. So, I don’t want to waste even a minute thinking, “that could have been written better” or “hmmm wasted opportunity there”. Unfortunately, I had those kinds of thoughts all throughout this book.
Let’s talk about why:
I am a lover of the fantasy genre and, even though I’m a grandmother, I’ve discovered I truly enjoy the Young Adult genre as well. The two together are often magical. So I was thrilled to begin this book.
Early on, however—and I mean in the first few pages—I was taken aback by the car-crash suddenness of the transitioning from every day American teenage school day to magical fantasy-land adventure. Our main character, Jim—a teenaged boy—falls asleep in the school Library and wakes to find himself in Kalymbria, a land of wizards and magic. He’s told he is the new chosen king and will soon have a queen and—just for the fun of it—it’s his new purpose in life to revitalize the government of Kalymbria and make it a wonderful place to live again. Oh and by-the-way, you can never go home again. Jim’s response isn’t what I was expecting. I thought he’d have at least one hesitation…but, no. Jim accepts his new life with no qualms—leaving behind parents, friends, school and ordinary life without a blink—and sets right off into the thick of it. Admirable…but, unlikely. I’ve been the mother of a teenaged boy. They won’t even clean their rooms without half-a-day of debate. It was an implausible reaction.
But, okay. I get it. Jim is NOT an ordinary teenager. And boy is that an understatement!
All the teenaged boys I’ve ever known have had trouble expounding in full sentences on any subject that does not involve a video game or a plate of nachos. Yet, Jim is fluent in politics, government structure and other (again) implausible subjects. Which leads me to paraphrase Judge Judy, if it doesn’t make sense then it isn’t true.
While the story itself could have been fun(-ish) I have to be honest and say it was also very…bland. There was so little “flavor”. The author missed out on some wonderful opportunities to describe his fantasy world, to flesh it out and bring it to life. The story needed a more detailed backdrop. Jim needed a more inspired persona, a personality … heck, Jim needed a life. As it was, he (and all the characters, really) were more stick-figure-ish than fully fleshed out persons. That’s saying a lot when you consider that most of the characters are wizards and the like.
Don’t get me wrong. Mr. Neuendorf has talent. I guess that’s why I was disappointed. It could have been so much better. This book read more like the outline of what the story could have been than what I imagine the final copy should have been.
The Summoned King is the first in a projected series called, “The Kalymbrian Chronicles”. Here’s hoping that Mr. Neuendorf reaches deeper into his considerable imagination (and skill) and fleshes out his next story with a little more finesse.