Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Daniel Coldstar: The Relic War by Stel Pavlou.
Fiction Friday: Daniel Coldstar: The Relic War Review
Today’s novel is a Science Fiction Middle-Grade story, Daniel Coldstar: The Relic War by Stel Pavlou. You can find it here. I had very mixed feeling about this one, but mostly positive overall. I’ll get into the details about that in a moment, but I’m doing this to look into more younger stories. If I’m going to be writing young protagonists, I need to have a clear idea of what’s actually out there (I do, just not enough). Time to change that and review one, so let’s get going.
This is a sci-fi story set in an undisclosed part of the galaxy. Our hero, Daniel Coldstar, is a prisoner at a mining camp where he meets other kids alongside him. Kids with interesting names such as Blink and Nails. They try to befriend him, but Daniel has a problem. He has a severe case of amnesia. He can’t remember who he is nor where he came from.
The overseers keep watch on him as they mine from this undisclosed world, but Daniel stumbles across a mysterious relic that lodges into his chest and grants him unimaginable power. This makes him public enemy number one amongst the overseers and sends Daniel on an escape mission that takes him to the farthest reaches of space.
He eventually arrives on a ship owned by these overseers and meets a strange robotic rat named Hex A. Decimal. The two hatch an escape plan and finally come across the most important group, the Truth Seekers. These people fight against a monstrous force known as the Sinja, who corrupt worlds through lies and deception.
Overall, the story itself is solid. It’s a fun tale any young reader will enjoy that isn’t too dark. The overall message, between the Sinja and the Truth Seekers, I feel has a lot of similarities to our world today. At least in the US, we’re bombarded with false news stories by imitations sites (For the record, I’m not referring to respected newsgroups like the Washington Post. I’m talking about sites that deliberately lie to incite chaos). This story seems to display a powerful message that it’s vital to seek the truth, no matter what it takes. Lies cannot win, or else our world, all worlds, will suffer.
That said, I feel this message, while necessary and important in today’s society, seems to be muddled in the overall character development. I’ll get to that in a moment, but I felt that certain characters made the story tolerable even if the theme is sound. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good book overall, but I felt the characters could have had a little more care and attention to in regards to their personalities. I’ll explain what I mean.
Let’s start with the title character, Daniel Coldstar. He’s our hero who suffers from a case of amnesia and it a bit of a hothead that always lands himself in trouble. He’s where my issue begins. To start, at least in the beginning of the book, he comes across as kind of a jerk. He wakes up in a prison, has no idea how he got there, and the first thing he does is pick a fight with the kids.
I can kind of see what’s going on here. This kid is your classic hot head character who doesn’t think before he acts and gets in trouble as a result. However, the early moments I thought he came across as rude to the other kids who were at least curious about him.
This could have been handled a little better. It’s all too easy for a character to ruin a good story.
The next is Hex A. Decimal. He’s a robotic rat that works with Daniel to escape from a ship owned by the overseers. He was a little jarring initially since it wasn’t made clear these kinds of characters could exist. I have nothing against talking animals (my upcoming novel has a few animal-type characters that talk), but it would have been easier to introduce them from the start. Maybe as worker units if they’re made by overseers. Either way, as much as I liked the character and his personality, it came off as a little surprising.
The truth seekers were also important characters, but they show up a little later than I would have liked. They don’t show up until Chapter 27 (out of 44, so a little close to halfway in). I should also mention that these chapters are pretty short. Anyway, they have a pretty big role towards the end of the book. It’s an interesting concept that I don’t think got as much time as I thought. I’m sure the structure had something to do with it, but the only good was that they pushed the plot forwards, whereas the early part dragged on a bit. I felt like a lot of it could have been left out initially, or at least made longer.
I say that because of the climax. The final group of characters, the Sinja, are the major antagonists. Their goal is to lie and create chaos. They’re also the result of a massive plot twist at the end and, while it’s genuine, didn’t last too long. There was an epic battle, but it ended pretty quickly. I won’t go into that, since I don’t like spoiling, but I felt the end sequence could have lasted a few more chapters.
The writing was solid for the most part, but Daniel’s character development was the one issue I had. Again, I have nothing against hot heads, but he came across as rude in the beginning and seems too easy to fool. It was hard to back him when a lot of the messes he gets into was his own fault anyway.
It might seem like I’m being harsh about this, especially Daniel, but I did like the story overall. It’s not perfect, but I feel like this does have the potential for improvement. Some moments were well done, such as the Book of Planets, a massive artifact which, if put into the wrong hands, could spell disaster. A few of the moments involving the mines were a joy to read, but I did have some gripes overall. The pacing was also an issue since we spend an awfully long time in the mines and didn’t get into the meat of the plot until a little more than halfway into the book. This is book one, but I’m willing to give book two a chance if the story can tone down Daniel’s brash behavior.
In any case, if you want a Middle-Grade Sci-fi tale, this would be one I’d give a recommendation to if you’re willing to be brave. Aside from that, I’ve said all I could say. Looking on Amazon, it seems people like this book, but these are just my thoughts. I did have issues with it, but I liked it overall. Not perfect, but still a good read.
So this is the last book of the year. Next year, we kick off a new one with a fantasy series by an Arabic author, so stay tuned for that.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.