09 September 2007

Book Review: Unscarred by R.M. Hamilton

By R.M. Hamilton

Aventine Press
1023 4th Ave #204
San Diego, CA 92101
239 pages
ISBN: 1-59330-401-3
$15.50 Paperback

Following the brutal overthrow of King Jonathan, the Land of Eir is thrust under the thumb of Maurader and the army of the Eternal Flame. Unscarred really begins when Kyle is forced by Maurader to accomplish a task that only he can undertake. Throughout the journey, young Kyle learns far more than he bargained for and is forced into manhood through torture, conflict, revelations of his heritage, his desire to become whole again, and his growing need to rescue his homeland from the megalomaniacal Maurader. R. M. Hamilton gives readers a coming of age story of magic, conflict, and triumph.

This first novel is a valiant effort to pull together all of the tropes of the fantasy genre, but falls short in a number of areas. The narrative is told in the offsetting and untraditional first person present tense—a distraction that often makes the story itself inaccessible. While the core of the plot is unquestionably Hamilton’s, the ancillary characters, plotlines, and set ups are instantly recognizable for any seasoned fantasy reader as archetypal and predictable.

Navigating the world of self publishing can be difficult and fraught with issues that traditional brick and mortar publishing corrects, particularly when dealing with fantasy. Unscarred would have benefited from a good editor and copyeditor. In the more engaging portions of the story, typos and grammatical issues pull readers out of the story and onto the physical page to figure out corrections. In places the dialogue is frustratingly modern and conflicts with the setting and genre, while other places take the dialogue too far into the melodramatic excess that fantasy can easily become. In the end, Unscarred reads like a tabletop game transcribed—an excellent concept that requires more fine tuning.

Unscarred does, however, illustrate the imagination, dedication and understanding of the genre that R.M. Hamilton possesses. Based on the tone of Unscarred, I would be surprised if Hamilton doesn’t eventually find a successful following in the Young Adult section with his future works. With his first novel completed, I look forward to seeing where his writing turns from here.

Review by Dawn Papuga