By Katie Stockdale
The Paladin Prophecy’s author Mark Frost doesn’t waste time making his novel memorable. He starts the book with an epigraph of a Ralph Waldo Emerson line, which is uncommon for a young adult sci-fi thriller. On the next page, an untitled clip of italicized text gives a brief and chaotic first-person account of seeing a boy in trouble running and needing help.
When the story really starts, one phrase stands out on the first page. It’s repeated twice, once in italics, and once in all caps: “The Importance of an orderly mind.” It’s the first of 98 rules that main character Will West lives his life by. Will’s life is extremely ordered, following his parent’s rules and moving at least once a year.
Then everything changes, and rule number five becomes vital: “Trust no one.”
Frost is a genius in setting this story up. He writes the main chapters in third person, leaving enough hints of foreshadowing to drive the reader insane. It’s impossible not to become engaged with the characters, or to refrain from yelling hopelessly– because really all they have to do is look twice. The disjointed passages of first person have readers guessing just who this character is – and if they’re friend or foe until the very end.
The characters are funny and clever, each with their own distinct personalities and unique quirks. They all attend a fancy “collegiate prep” school which, thanks to a highly sheltered location (they can’t even connect to the Internet), appears more like a cult than a boarding school. While they are all overly smart, no one can be jealous for long as their lives quickly become dangerous.
Will himself is an underdog you want to root for. Extremely sheltered before being thrust into an ancient struggle, Will has never had a friend before. Luck and circumstance gain him five friends he can count on, who he’ll need to uncover just what, exactly, took over his life.
Even though Will decimates standardized tests with ease, he’s a bit lacking in the common sense department. He’s just hopeless enough that readers worry about him, bumping up the adrenaline level of the book.
Aside from being obnoxiously smart and having genetically altered stamina that makes him the real life Flash; Will is just like any other teenager. He stands up to bullies, makes new friends, jokes with ease, and fumbles around his crush. But while Will may act like a normal kid, his situation is anything but. Now he has to protect himself against enemies he never knew existed.
Frost slowly reveals the mystery, allowing readers to guess and hope, with twist after twist racking the plot. And even though the sci-fi genre is full of stories, Frost manages to keep his fresh, which makes it even harder to guess just what is happening. Even at the end it’s hard to tell who is on which side, leading the book perfectly into its sequel, Alliance which is already out.
An attention grabber from the start, The Paladin Prophecy is a great read, though not if productivity is a priority.
Katie Stockdale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.