Review of Augee: Guardian of Hohala
by Seregil of Rhiminee of RISINGSHADOW.NET
Paul Stuempel and Cormac Lambe's Augee: Guardian of Hohala is the first novel in the Augee saga. It's an engaging, different kind of epic fantasy novel about exile, survival, violence, faith and miracles, because the authors combine elements of traditional epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy, adventure fiction and young adult fantasy fiction in a successful and entertaining way.
This novel differs from other epic fantasy novels by being a story about the survival of friendly and non-violent people who come face to face with a severe threat to their existence. It's partly a coming-of-age story, because it tells of a youth who has to grow up during hostile times, and it also has an environmental theme due to the Volcaron invaders' total indifference to the environment and natural resources.
I was pleasantly surprised by Augee: Guardian of Hohala and found it entertaining. When I began to read it, I got the impression that it had been written out of fascination and love for traditional epic fantasy fiction, because it has many epic fantasy elements. It appealed to my own taste for epic fantasy because the authors succeed in presenting a battle between good and evil in a satisfyingly different way.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
- This novel tells of what happens when an isolated and prosperous nation is threatened by a brutal and violent race that comes across the sea to conquer the land.
- In the beginning, Morgoratt from the island of Volcaron, hatches a plan to build warships in order to conquer the distant country of Hohala, which was mentioned in his great-great-grandfather's parchments. The people of Volcaron construct the vessels and set sail to conquer Hohala in the name of Volcaron.
- Meanwhile, the Hohalians live their daily lives ignorant to the impending threat, but King Benjamin has sensed something, because the Nexus is troubled. He has felt the presence of something dark and unknown penetrating their land. Young Nicholas Stone also senses that something is wrong.
- As the invasion is about to begin, the Hohalians flee from the invaders and seek shelter elsewhere. Although things look bleak and dark for the Hohalians, there's a glimmer of hope for their survival, because Nicholas finds a strange creature called Augee...
And so begins an epic tale that offers readers fascinating happenings, brutal scenes and thought-provoking moments.
The world-building in this novel is good, because the authors fluently introduce the world to their readers and gradually reveal more information about it. The authors concentrate on writing about three locales: Hohala, Hohala's surroundings and the island of Volcaron.
Hohala (which means "Essence of Heaven") is the country of the Hohalian people who worship the Nexus, a divine and unseen network of kindly gods and spirits. A prosperous, non-violent race, the Hohalians nurture and cultivate the land and live in harmony with all the species of earth, sea and sky. Hohala is a remote place that is naturally protected by an untamed jungle, a mountain range and a coastline.
Far beyond the tropical waters of the Great Bay of Hohala lies an island of Volcaron where freezing winds keep the climate cool and summerless. The people of Volcaron were historically a seafaring people who invaded and plundered coastal settlements as a way of life, but when the fertile island of Volcaron was discovered, the people abandoned their roving ways and settle there. However, over generations, their gluttonous ways exhausted the island's natural resources, causing it to become a most desolate place.
The characterisation in this novel is engaging. I enjoyed reading about the protagonists, because the authors depict them and their emotional conflicts in a fluent way.
Some information about the major characters:
- Nicholas Stone is a young man who feels detached from the Hohalian community. He is considered to be strange by others and is more interested in the outside world than his native Hohala.
- King Benjamin is Hohala's ruler. He is a benevolent leader who doesn't believe in violence and wants his people to stay true to their faith. His daughter, Princess Caralisa, is also a kind person and is loved by the Hohalians. Central to the story is Caralisa and Nicholas's romantic relationship.
- Morgoratt is a brutal, highly intelligent antagonist who is filled with darkness and yearning. He is the leader of the Volcarons, but he despises his people. He has earned himself a fearful reputation and is considered to be a ruthless leader who doesn't hesitate to kill those who oppose him. His desire is to restore Volcaron to its former glory and greatness. His cruelty knows no bounds, because he is driven by violence.
I have to mention that Morgoratt is one of the most brutal characters ever to appear in this kind of epic fantasy fiction. His viciousness and violent deeds are reminiscent of some of the characters and anti-heroes found in grimdark fantasy novels..
Reading about what happens between Nicholas and Princess Caralisa is fascinating, with their relationship explored through the lens of their conflicting world views. The authors effectively explore Nicholas's deep internal conflict as he helplessly watches his fellow Hohalians abandon their ancient home, refusing to defend themselves for fear of letting violence take root in their community.
I found it fascinating how blindly and firmly the Hohalians believe in the Nexus and its guidance, and how they are willing to suffer bleak conditions to protect their way of life and their non-violent ways. Even under serious threat the Hohalians and their King remain stubbornly faithful to the Nexus. Particularly, the authors prompt readers to consider the plight of innocent people when they face a deadly enemy.
It was interesting to compare what happens among the Volcarons the Hohalians respectively, because the authors write convincingly about both sides. The authors describe how the greedy Volcarons cause destruction and how the Hohalians try to survive despite the threat to their lives.
I also enjoyed reading about how Nicholas and Augee became friends. The development of their friendship delightful and heart-warming.. I'm not going to mention here what kind of a creature Augee is, but I can reveal he is a gentle, yet very powerful being.
This novel has a good pace. The authors take time to develop the story, but keep things in motion while doing so. I especially enjoyed reading about the individual struggles of the major characters which gives further depth to the story.
It's worth mentioning that the authors write about the hero of the story in a more original and entertaining way than found in many other novels of this kind. I like their way of writing about him as a person who has conflicting emotions. I also want to mention that this novel is delightfully quest-free unlike many other epic fantasy novels, because only one part of the story has quest elements. It's great that the authors have had ambition to avoid quest elements.
There's something about this novel that vaguely reminds me of the fantasy trilogy, Prophecy of the Kings, by David J. Burrows, because the authors seem to love storytelling and have written the story as well as possible. I was also slightly reminded of Ronlyn Domingue's Keeper of Tales trilogy.
I give this novel a strong four stars on the scale from one to five stars, because it's something a bit different due to the authors' successful attempt at writing an original story. I look forward to reading the sequel, Augee II: The Reawakening.
Paul Stuempel and Cormac Lambe's Augee: Guardian of Hohala is a fascinating epic fantasy novel for readers who enjoy immersive stories. While categorized as "traditional epic fantasy" readers will find topical and thought-provoking themes that are not normally explored in this kind of fiction.
My final words are:
This novel is good and captivating epic fantasy!