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Fantasy Review: ‘The Jackal of Nar’ by John Marco

In lieu of a review I am going to have a conversation about my last read with an average fifteen year old male reddit user (AFYOMRU).  Won’t that be fun?  Warning, that kid is known to drop minor spoilers at times.

Me: I will just go ahead and say it.  “The Jackal of Nar” was thoroughly mediocre.  It went from slightly interesting to boring.  Your thoughts?

AFYOMRU: You are crazy man, that may have been the best book I have read all year!

Me: Really?  Well break it down for me, what makes this book work for you?

AFYOMRU: Everything.

Me: This conversation will not go anywhere with one word answers, let’s be more specific.  I will start; usually if a protagonist is unlikeable it is because the author wants him that way.  This man was unlikable, but I think we were supposed to be impressed by him.

AFYOMRU: What?!  Richius was bad ass throughout!  He was an awesome military commander and all the chicks dug him.

Me:  I guess I just didn’t see it.  We are supposed to think he is a great military mind but really we saw him either get defeated or run into a completely inept enemies that were are also TOLD are great minds, but never really see.  As for the “chicks” thing, ya there was some wish fulfillment stuff going one that got borderline creepy.  I mean, he sleeps with a girl whose circumstances force her to turn to prostitution, takes her virginity, and then gains her trust and love with a simple apology?  Then gets the most beautiful girl in the kingdom in an arranged marriage, who also falls deep in love with him at first sight?  This seem realistic to you?

AFYOMRU: Yes.  And it is not like it was one way love, he seemed to love them both.  Look at his reaction when his wife died.  It changed everything for him.

Me: Ya.  That is known as a “fridging” these days.  And I would say that it was laughably predictable looking at the plot before it, but this author decided a basic fridging wasn’t good enough, first he had to go Terrry Goodkind on the poor girl and pass her to Richius’ rival.  Frankly it was disgusting, and this is coming from a guy who enjoys most GRIMDARK he reads.

AFYOMRU: Goodkind sure is awesome.

Me: I knew you would say that.  I suppose you like the bad guys too?  At first I thought they were going to have some depth, but once you knew who they were they were obviously bad all the way through.

AFYOMRU: Oh I loved them!  Biagio seemed like a nice guy, with only subtle hints that he was really bad at first.  Like when you learn he has a thing for both boys and girls in a throwaway line.

Me: ……………………

AFYOMRU: Anyway you seem stuck on dissing the characters, what about the battles?  You say you like that kind of thing, were they not awesome?

Me:  They kind of were.  I liked the war wolves; I liked the hint of new technologies changing the style of war being fought.  Really it was the details like that kept me reading through the end.  But for military fantasy there was very little in the way of military.  I saw what, 10 pages of battle in a seven hundred page book?

AFYOMRU: ………… Huh.  Your kinda right about that one.  I liked the world building though.

Me: Really?  It was Rome in expansionist era.  It may have been neat with some kind of depth, but all we got were names of places.  No history or life.  And the politics made no sense.  If Nar is stretched fighting battles on all sides why did it take so long for its enemies to ally together?

AFYOMRU: Dunno.

Me:  Like I said, boring.
 
AFYOMRU: No, you’re boring.  I am going home man.

Ok let’s review.  Apparently this book would be more enjoyable if you enjoy being told how great the main character is by the author and have a deep love of male wish fulfillment.  It also seems to help if you like moody teenagers in adult bodies as your main character.  You probably won’t care for it if you expect battles in your military fantasy, or politics that make sense, or anything that resembles excitement.  I should have given up this book around the halfway point, but I was hoping for a climactic battle at the end.  Got more boredom instead.

2 Stars

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