“Banebringer” is the first book in the Heretic Gods series and the premiere audiobook from author Carol A. Park. To me, the fantasy story felt a bit like the Mistborn series from author Brandon Sanderson when it comes to its use of magic, whereas the rest of the story is rather unique. The book is masterfully narrated by Eric Bryan Moore; who I enjoyed very much from the Damian Stockwell series of audiobooks. If you are looking for a new fantasy story with a bit of science fiction mixed in, you might want to give this book a listen. After completing the audiobook, I found the overall feel to be a fantasy Romeo and Juliet coming of age type story with a much happier ending.
The story consists of a pantheon of gods like those found in a Greek mythology tale. These gods have the ability to grant or force upon humans’ specific powers based on what they are a god of; for example: water, sun, moon, etc. An individual in exchange gives this god their loyalty and devotion. When an individual has been blessed (or cursed) by the gods, they become a banebringer. What makes banebringers so dangerous is that if one is killed, on purpose or accidentally, a powerful beast is released causing havoc and destruction to those around. Because of this rather negative byproduct of killing a banebringer, often people remain clear of them, or if known, they attempt to sedate the individual to limit the risks of releasing the creature within. This story follows Vaughn, who is a banebringer not by his own choice, but this power was thrust upon him by a long-forgotten moon goddess. He is the son of a king, yet because of this power given him, he is now on the run for his life.
The story brings together two very unique and different people. Both are trying to make right past wrongs along with discovering not only new things about themselves, but those journeying with them as well. One has the potential of becoming a future king (Vaughn) and the other is a very skilled and competent assassin for hire (Ivana). What you will discover early on is that these two are like trying to mix oil and water. Each has their own agenda and yet neither is able to accomplish their intended goals without the help of the other. Just as a story consists of many stages, we are given a view into the many stages of relationship building between our main characters and there are many ups and downs along the way. We find the many connections both learn about the others past and even present struggles. We see them move from selfish desires to selfless ones as the grow and mature. I can say that I found the book to contain a bit more romance than I would have expected in a book of this genre, although it was always there in the background, it was not overly expressed.
Add to the deep character development, detailed scenery and well-defined goals, you also have a dark hidden and covert group called the Conclave. This is one group of people you did not want to upset or get on their wrong side. I would have liked to have had more details released on this secretive group, however I suspect some of this will come in future books in the series. What I found somewhat interesting were some of the more science fiction elements sprinkled within the book. My preferred genres are both fantasy and science fiction, and I found this book even better by blending them into one. There was research, experimenting and some technology used to discover and uncover things about banebringers. The magic system relied on ether and other physical properties which could be investigated and tested.
Regarding the audiobook’s narration by Eric Bryan Moore, it was deep, rich, and engaging. I felt that he understood the characters and was able to bring them to life with his performance. He did an excellent job of giving the different characters traits and unique voices making it easy to distinguish as the story progressed. I also though the use of inflection was spot on. I could feel the times of action, emotion, and tension the characters faced. The audio quality was professionally produced with no noticeable audio artifacts apart from a slight added patch. Apart from this, the narration was exceptional.
For parents and younger listeners, I do not recall the use of vulgar language nor do I have it marked in my notes. There is some light romance along with aspects of mature material often found in a coming of age book.
In summary, the book felt a bit longer than it could have been. Yet, I thought the author did a good job of focusing on the importance of companionship, dealing with current and past emotions along with some added romance. While listening, you get a good understanding of the pain of opening up new wounds and making oneself vulnerable once again to others. I found the action to be exciting, the character development to be well-done, and the purpose defined. It is a solid story that could have been a bit more concise in areas, but I think for a premiere work, it is a good start to a new series.