An expert in conveying character through dialogue, Frost uses humor to lighten up this intense fantasy adventure.
Action-packed and filled with detail, The Freelancers: The Black Shield and the Red Fortune merges fantasy with reality. M. A. Frost uses humor and short paragraphs to propel this story of conquest forward, even as the immense detail slows it down.
Evil demons pit human against human in their mortal quest for control of the city of Selenor and the Mattermaph Kingdom. Shifting allegiances and selfish interests contribute to a blurring of boundary lines, both personal and political, as evil plays master and puppeteer, and victories are won on the battlefield.
It is particularly difficult to conceptualize the interrelations among the characters. Political affiliations, love interests, and friendships are difficult to grasp and to sort through as the story unfolds. The web of relationships involved requires concentration that is not compatible with easy reading.
Mechanically, there is a lot of tense-shifting back and forth between the present and the past. Additionally, the text reads as though it was translated into English by a computer program and then spell-checked, but not edited, as there are multiple instances of awkward renditions of common phrases, ambiguous pronoun usage, and odd word choices, further contributing to the complication and heaviness of the story.
Cleverly written, though, the book’s humorous dialogue confers a lightness to the reading that is, frankly, a necessity. When detail weighs the plot down, humor preserves interest in a story that otherwise might become too cumbersome. A human in the story remarks to a wizard, “You’re using sorcery. How much trouble could you people possibly have?” in the midst of battle, just as the narrative needs some comic relief. This comedic tool is used well and often.
Dialogue is effectively used to convey character traits. “Never bring arrogance into battle.” “Seek wisdom. Skills are useless without it.” “You should never stop someone with a noble cause.” Character values are well portrayed with just a few carefully chosen words.
The Freelancers, though a relatively short book, takes about twice as long to move through as an average book of similar length. It requires deep concentration and a fair amount of note-taking to digest well. Though not exactly light reading, this volume, and presumably the sequel to come, makes for an interesting and entertaining tale for adults, young and old, interested in an intense, mentally challenging, and magical adventure.
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