Book I - Beyond The Wall Series
It was a surprise to me when author Lucas Bale messaged me on Twitter and asked me if I would read and review his book The Heretic, not only that, but he offered to give me the book if I agreed! So I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a shot. I am always looking for something new to read, and I have had some very good luck reading works from new authors.
If you are also someone who appreciates reading aspiring authors first efforts, I would have to say that this is one that is very much worth a look.
The Heretic revolves around two major characters. First is a smuggler named Shepherd. Shepherd has a ship called the Soteria in which he moves cargo around by flying through wormholes that are called "tunnels" in the vernacular of the universe that Bale has created. While making a delivery to the planet Herse, which is under the jurisdiction of someone, or someones called the Magistratus. The other character at the center of the story is a young man named Jordi, who is a resident of Herse. The lives of these two people come together in a relationship that finds them dependent on each other through a series of incidents that surround another character called Preacher.
Jordi lives in a village that is harbouring one such Preacher. Preachers talk about a place that has long since disappeared where humanity originated, thrived, and finally declined. This is against the edict of the Magistratus who demands loyalty to him, or them alone in their New Republic. One night, a group of Peacekeepers enter the village looking for the Preacher. Jordi manages to escape the fate of being brutally murdered by the Peacekeepers along with a few refugees that flee into the forest.
All Shepherd wants is to be paid for his job and be on his way, but his ship is detained and a powerful government official known as a Consul is coming to Herse.
Shepherd, Jordi, and the Preacher find that they have to depend on each other to do their part in getting themselves, and the survivors of the village off the planet before the Consul arrives make life even more difficult.
Heretic starts out with action that doesn't slow down until the last chapter, which is reserved for setting up Bale's next book in the Beyond the Wall series, Defiance. I appreciated the book's pace because even though the action never lets up, it doesn't go so fast that one need wonder what happened. It is all there. One can read this story in a single, or maybe two sittings.
I also liked the setting for the book. It would seem that, in this universe, technology has advanced as far as space travel is concerned, but everything else is pretty well low tech. The use of projectile weapons is prevalent, and on Herse, the people use horses to get around. While I don't like to compare properties too much, Heretic has a kind of Firefly flavor to it; mostly because it is set in the outskirts of where humans have moved, far away from the Core worlds.
As far as things I would have liked to see more of in this story would be in the way of Character development. We get a pretty good picture of Jordi during the story. He has lived a hard life, but it hasn't been completely without good moments here and there. Shepherd is one character that I am interested in learning more about. Details about him were sketchy at best. We do get an idea of what might have been a past, or maybe future ambitions in a couple of dream sequences. But there is nothing that a reader can really grasp, and he is an interesting personality. One thing that we do learn about Shepherd is that he would like to think that he only cares about himself, but he seems to have the capacity to also care for others. Now while it might seem like I am pointing out something that is negative, it really isn't meant that way because since it is a series,I expect that the character development will take place slowly throughout the series.
The Preacher is the real mystery. He seems to have skills that a religious figure shouldn't really have, but in the last chapter, he explains the real role of the Preachers in this society, and there was no mention of a traditional religious belief system existing in this universe. It is going to be interesting to see what direction the next book takes.
I will say that I was completely engaged and mesmerized from the beginning to the end of The Heretic, only putting it down because it got late in the evenings and I have to start the day early. I give my highest recommendation to this book and urge you to give it a chance. You will be entertained.
Well, there it is...