Chris Northern is European, a traveller by inclination, and an electrical engineer by education.
He is often to be found eyeing the horizon; shortly thereafter, he is often found to be gone.
on Oct. 14, 2012 :
I really enjoyed this story, and I'm looking forward to read the next in the series.
(review of free book)
on April 03, 2012 :
This fantasy is set in a Roman type world and features the layabout son of a noble. When the son joins the army, the plot picks up as he reveals more intelligence than expected.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Aug. 14, 2011 :
NOTE: The basis of this review is limited. Although the author has forwarded me their complete manuscript, I personally retain the right to refrain from reading the book further at any time or reason. If the book lacks a particular element in its writing, then it’s not worth the read. All grades are based on honest evaluations and will be supplemented by a couple of examples to prove my point.
The Last King’s Amulet
By Christopher Northern
COLD HONEST TRUTH:
•If I died a Catholic, I want to be the patron saint of Creative Writing; you need one.
OVERALL STRUCTURE: B
I like the idea of having a reluctant anti-hero being forced to participate in a type of war, and that’s something worth reading since the book seems to offer that as an idea overall. However, I am not entirely sure what kind of time period or cultural society that Sumto lives in. The emphasis here is quite unclear; you might need to work on that.
I am not entirely sure if I can relate to Sumto as much as I’d like to say. Your writing from the first person’s perspective is somewhat interesting but not entirely compelling enough to pull my interest as a reader. The main reason why I say this is because much of his personal thoughts about someone are either bland or non-specific. Although I would like to see more come out of the book, I personally think this is one of its downfalls (from the first five pages I’ve looked at).
Another problem I’m finding in your book is the introduction of terminology, histories, and people that are not so well described/fleshed out. For instance, you mention on the Yelian Shen on one hand but you don‘t say much about him other than the fact that Sumto treats him like family. Is there a particular reason why he considers him family? Another example is how you mention the Alendi and Tulian at the same time without mentioning the geographic location or the significance of these to Sumto. Normally, fantasy tales or any kind of work of fiction would mention the importance of these cities unless it’s obvious what these cities stand for (e.g. ‘Paris’ or ‘Berlin’).
COVER DESIGN: A+
Without any of those updates that you made on the cover, I would’ve said that your cover looks awful. In the original cover, the font was lousy and I wasn’t sure what the scene of that picture depicted exactly. Apart from that, let me discuss the new one with some detail. I like the fact that Sumto looks more age appropriate and that you’ve portrayed the amulet because it’s got something to do with the story. However, I would caution you to come up with a more realistic portrayal of the story. Anime cover titles are OK, but they are more appropriate with graphic novels and comic books. Still, that does not mean I don’t think the cover looks amateurish in any sense of the word.
I’m greatly disappointed with the way you formatted your work: no chapter labels, cover and copyrights page, preface, and definitely NO PAGE NUMBERS! I don’t know if having no page numbers bother you, but how do you expect the reader to keep track while reading your work?
Another problem I’m finding in your work is that there are no spaces that makes your book attractive, especially when there’s no spaces between the lines you’re writing. I understand that you want the book to be single spaced, but there’s got to be a sufficient amount of space so that that reader does not feel like he or she’s reading some kind of fine print of a contract. I am not suggesting you’d format the book in ‘double space’, but somewhere in between.
One last thing I keep finding with a lot of well to do self-published authors such as yourself is that the formatting of the fonts aren’t all that attractive. I’m sure there are other standard formats of writing that make this work a bit more attractive other than Times New Roman.
You might want to have a different start; there is confusion between first and third person which may or may not excite the reader when he or she looks at it for examination.
I was not impressed with the dialoguing overall; the speech was confusing and lacked speech tags. That’s probably one of the first rules that you should know whenever you’re writing a fiction novel, especially between two characters.
Apart from that I found several other major problems. First I noticed your comparisons are unrealistic. How exactly do Sharks ‘smile’? Are we on some Disney Pixar adventure like Toy Story or Finding Nemo? This analogy doesn’t even make sense. Second, there are no cues on when we’re going to encounter a conversation i.e., the direction of the story does not lead in that way. Third, while you continue to curse repeatedly in the text (which does not make your novel look any better than a Tom Clancy Novel gone wrong), I want to add that the speech dialogue needs some body language apart from the occasionally senseless ones that you sometimes use (e.g. Sumto giving a ‘filthy’ look at Meran).
(reviewed long after purchase)
on July 04, 2011 :
Sumto is a lazy gambler, who enjoys his drinking. Well I could identify with that and immediately started off with a degree of empathy for the chap! Author Chris Northern has invented and developed a vast fantasy world loosely based on technology and political construction similar to that that we might associate with the early Roman empire. Into this he has introduced a complex magic system only ordinarily used by the ruling classes. The reader, through the wonderful first hand accounts of the anti-hero Sumto, is then shown this world of adventure and intrigue.
The secondary characters, Meran and his love interest Jocasta are equally in depth. Together they struggle against very powerful enemies and events much larger than they. At times I roared out loud with laughter, the humour is well placed and delicately managed. It serves as a marvellous introduction novel to what might hopefully be a series. I thoroughly enjoyed this recommend it whole heartedly to anyone looking for a tale of adventure in a whole new world.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on June 29, 2011 :
I have never been interested in reading books like this before - to be honest i'm not much of a reader - but I decided to give it a go. I read the first few paragraphs and I was hooked. This has got to be the best book I have known about since A Clockwork Orange. I just couldn't keep my head out of it and now I have finished it have moved swiftly on to the next instalment The Key to the Grave. If you enjoy a good fantasy book with magic, fighting, captures and rescues - or even if you don't - then this is definitely the book for you! Thank you Chris for producing an interesting and educational read!
(reviewed long after purchase)
J. R. Tomlin
on June 16, 2011 :
"My name is Sumto, and I am a gambling, lazy, good-for-nothing drunk who has to join the army and fight in a war I am frankly too corpulent to cope with. Still, that's got to be as bad as things get, Am I right?"
This does not appear to be the beginning of an appealing book, and initially the wastrel of a protagonist, Sumto Cerulilan, rather put me off. He is mostly interested in food, drink and women and doesn't hesitate to sell off or live off his slaves to maintain his "lifestyle". However, his engaging self-humor overcame my initial distaste.
He is a member of a society that seems to be closely modeled on ancient Rome with magic added, a change of pace in a fantasy which also has some appeal. As an heir of a "Patron" of the city of Luria, he is supposed to build a client base and take part in the martial and political society he was born into. His refusal and complete disinterest has his father about to disinherit him and his creditors honing in for what little he has.
However, what turns things around is when he discovers his sister is betrothed to a powerful man who informs Sumto he has no intention of being part of a family that has a wastrel in it. So Sumto will reform or will no longer be around to bother with. In this society, Sumto has good reason to take the threat seriously.
Given the choice between death and the military, Sumto joins a military expedition to punish the rebellious northern tribes, and thus begins Sumto's growth. The changes in Sumto's character as he faces battle and adversity is very well done. He does occasionally lose, but he never gives up, and this reader grew to sincerely cheer for him. It isn't an easy transition from rogue to responsibility. The secondary characters, particularlly Meran and Jocasta, are well-realized and not merely cardboard cutouts, which adds to the novel's depth.
I thought some of the philosophical discussion on government, servitude, and society slowed the pace down a bit at times, but it was all applicable both to the society in the book and to ours. The magic is well-integrated and also serves as an interesting parallel on how a society might try to keep power to itself. The prose itself was solid but not extraordinary.
All in all, in spite of a few slow patches, it's a fun read and I recommend it. I give it a four star rating.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Oct. 25, 2010 :
"The Last King's Amulet" is an engaging work of fantasy grounded in historical analogies to antiquity, most especially ancient Rome, which makes it quite intriguing (and also makes me hope this talented writer will try his hand at historical fiction). The plot is solid but where Northern most shines is in the fine art of character development. At first blush the protagonist, Sumto, appears to be a spoiled, indolent, thoroughly self-satisfied slackard who might be easily dimimissed as totally disinteresting were it not for his ability to be remarkably honest about himself. Northern does an excellent job of revealing Sumto's true measure early on, using Sumto's sardonic humor to reveal a bittersweet self awareness about his character flaws. Sumto's brutal honesty about self is his saving grace and sets the stage for Sumto's plausible development into a thoughtful man, a person who raises eternal questions about life that are as important today as they were long ago. The story ended a bit too abruptly which makes me wonder if the author should combine it with its sequel "The Key to the Grave." Nonetheless, I found this book to be a fun, fast-paced read and I look forward to reading the sequel or sequels and want to repeat that I think this talented author should expand into historical fiction. If you like fantasy you're going to really enjoy "The King's Last Amulet." (Maureen Gill author of "January Moon")
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on Oct. 01, 2010 :
INTRODUCTION:"My name is Sumto, and I am a gambling, lazy, good-for-nothing drunk who has to join the army and fight in a war I am frankly too corpulent to cope with. Still, that's got to be as bad as things get, Am I right?"
"The Last King's Amulet" is another independent book that I discovered through a review query at FBC. The blurb above intrigued me, so I checked the Smashwords 20% sample linked above and when I liked what I was reading there, I got the full version; the novel pulled me in so I finished it a day or so and then I bought the second novel in the series The Key to the Grave which was a good sequel but lacked the freshness of the original and had a bit too much repetition in structure/plot.
ANALYSIS: "The Last King's Amulet" is narrated in first person by Sumto Cerulian "patron" of Luria - aka The City, a Rome analogue but with high magic that it reserves for itself, destroying any other state/grouping that tries to use magic.
Sumto, a scion of the highest nobility likes books, good food and drink, women and intellectual discussions, while he dislikes politics and war; of course he is considered a wastrel in the martial/political society of the City, his father is almost ready to disinherit him, the creditors are circling like vultures..
Another day in his regular life, another trip to see his mother behind his father's back and scrounge some more cash... But now there is a difference - his sister has finally been betrothed to an older noble who makes it clear to Sumto that his easy life is done; either Sumto accepts his heritage and goes on the current campaign against some troublesome Northern tribes, or he goes away forever, not necessarily alive.
As Sumto puts it, possible death in battle against certain death at the hands of his future-in-law retainers, no contest... And so the adventure starts and the troubles begin; the question though is whose troubles, Sumto's or the nasty enemies that plot the City's downfall in what seems a run of the mill rebellion?
While the Roman analogies are clear and consistent and a big plus for me as a fan of such, the novel has other strengths too. The narrator Sumto is quite engaging and his evolution from his easy life to responsibilities and command is well delineated showing his inner struggles, his doubts, his errors.
With the help of his resourceful slave and latter first freedman and client Meran and of Jocasta his girlfriend-to-be with magical powers in a culture where women of the nobility are supposed to be good wives and mothers only, Sumto confronts adversity and while he occasionally gets defeated, he does not give up. "The Last King's Amulet" also stands out by the underlying "serious" debates Sumto has with various notables, enemies or even himself about the nature of "good governance", slavery, servitude, rich vs poor and generally stuff that is quite applicable today. These debates are genrally integrated very well within the text and the novel's pace never suffers, though again in the sequel there is some repetitiveness that grates occasionally.
"The Last King's Amulet" is a fun and fast adventure fantasy that flows very well and has very little of the usual editing mistakes I've seen in independent books - there are one or two continuity errors, but nothing serious. The book is the beggining of a series that the author plans to continue for a while. While the ending achieves some closure, if you like the novel I highly recomend to read The Key to the Grave which picks up where this one ends and takes the story to a more definite ending, so these two installments are like two halves of a large novel.
The novel has a bit too much high magic for my taste and occasionally degenerates into "my sorcery is bigger than yours" - syndrome that is even more pronounced in the sequel - but it is fun, energetic and strongly recommended. I am really curious to see what's next and I plan to get the third installment whenever available.
(reviewed long after purchase)