on April 9, 2012 :
I received an e-book copy of "The Last Key" by Rob Steiner for a review. I got it a long time ago but unfortunately could not read it until now because of some personal issues. I had a little trouble in the beginning keeping up with all the characters. That of course changed as I read the book because I became SO engrossed in the story. I found myself staying up late to read what would happen next. On my color Nook it has 400 pages. The story ends on page 393 and the rest is a glossary. I wished I had known about that as I was reading the story because it would have helped. I REALLY hope Mr. Steiner continues with Raven's story. I would love to read more about Raven, Seala and Diliana. Raven is training to become a dahkshari (warrior-priest). He falls in love with Seala who is of Nobel birth and feels the same for him but knows that a dahkshari is not allowed to marry. Diliana is considered a criminal by the Queen but a hero by many she helps. Diliana helps Raven and Seala save many people in the story including the Queen. Over all it is a very good book if you like Science-Fantasy.
(reviewed 2 years after purchase)
on March 4, 2011 :
Pretty good for a first novel. While it started off a bit slow once it got going I wanted to know how it would end. It followed some pretty normal fantasy themes, but had the author's original spin to it. The world and character building were well done. There were some inconsistancies and at times it seemed to mirror fantasy classics, but it was an enjoyable read. Rob left the readers on a cliffhanger ending, hopefully implying another book in the near future. All around, a good first effort.
(reviewed 6 months after purchase)
on Jan. 27, 2011 :
The first thing I noticed is that the author had a couple of minor issues with tense formation. There also exist certain inconsistencies in the story. Raven's eye colour is listed (green?) - brown - green, Seala's ocean blue - jade - green. Among others, but that is the clearest.
There are also some awkward descriptive paragraphs - even words - that can be cut out. The author's writing style, unfortunately, does not accommodate long descriptions of the sort. Nobody needs to know in that much detail, and it detracts from the point being made at the time, whatever that may be.
The resolution of the plot, which I will not spoil, was quite weak. Granted it had to happen some way, but surely there was another way that doesn't stretch the imagination, or the consistency of the story. Other kinds of unrealism abound, which make me think that the author had written himself into a dead-end. In summary: liberal use of the Act of God method of solving a problem.
I also saw lots of loose ends. Sure they don't need to be resolved? Either he's leaving it open for a sequel, or...something. It would have been nice to see what happened to [Thallan's country], for example, in the next month/year, rather than jumping straight to the concluding scene. (And if he's planning on a sequel, then it is imperative that things remain consistent across books...yeah.)
All these are quite minor nitpicks...well, except the Acts of God. And now that I am done with the criticism, let me say that it had an engaging storyline and I could not wait to finish reading it (Acts of God instances aside). The characterisations were well done also - I could imagine these to be real people.
Overall: I would recommend the author to get a good editor, and then I would recommend this book to readers of fantasy fiction.
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)
on Nov. 12, 2010 :
The Last Key is a rather original novel, with a very unique plot line and interesting characters. It is however is slow to start, making it hard to keep reading, but it does improve lot later on. Rob Steiner has done excellent job developing the world, in fact he seemed to have put a lot of effort into making the world seem real, while he has achieved this it would perhaps have been better not to over describe and explain everything as it makes the novel slow to read and all too easy to put down. I found it such a problem that I had to force myself to keep reading, hoping it would get better and while most things did improve, the over describing was not one of them. While The Last Key is a quite good book, there is definitely room for improvement in more then one area of it.
(reviewed 60 days after purchase)
on Nov. 4, 2010 :
Sometimes I have a hard time entering a new fantasy world. Full immersion works best for me, where each new word or idea is sorted out by context, but even so the beginning is often slow. This book did not have me sold in the beginning. Partially I wasn't in the mood for a fantasy, partially I was confused by the names and vocabulary. But I'm glad I kept reading. Once I figured out the basics of who was who and what was going on it was difficult to put down.
The use of the word Faith was sometimes hard for me to get around. Not because it's good or bad because I wasn't quite sure of the context. I also didn't know if I really liked the main character. I thought he was hot-headed and a little boring. But as his character developed and interacted with other characters it made the novel more enjoyable. I also liked that it didn't end the way I expected it to. No spoilers here. Just saying that I thought I knew what the end outcome would be, and while I was satisfied at the end. It wasn't the finish of the tale I had imagined.
I don't know if this book is a stand alone, but I feel it's been left open for continuing tales, of what happens to the main characters, and I would probably read those as well.
(reviewed 52 days after purchase)
on Oct. 24, 2010 :
This novel is a fast paced, action packed, fantasy novel filled with complex characters and descriptive narratives. One could not help but to become engrossed in the story line for it flowed continually, introducing characters and plots so the reader does not become bored or distracted. How the author chose to end the story was disappointing; obviously this was done to allow for a sequel but there were too many unanswered questions to satisfy this reader.
(reviewed 37 days after purchase)
Lit Addicted Brit
on Oct. 23, 2010 :
The story didn't feel entirely original and reminded me both of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy and 'The Wheel of Time' series but it was reasonably good in its similarities.
The version of magic was interesting and fairly unique - some people can access 'Faith' - those who can are often bound by a Charter to become Dahkshari, protectors and healers of the people. Due to historical upset, all others are forbidden from using their Faith. Those that do so in breach of the law are known as 'sovereigns' or 'heretics', depending on what political side you're on. There were some interesting early discussions about the moral implications of denying the poorer villages the right to use their Faith to maintain their lifestyle, rather than requiring them to move to the cities and under the protection of the Dahkshari but this petered out later on. Great while it lasted...
Future Duchess, Lady Seala, is under the protection of Raven and Jalen in her journey across the plains to a world-changing treaty signing. And it is on this journey that things take a dramatic turn. The length of the journey and its dilemmas were what reminded me of The Fellowship of the Ring (or The Two Towers, I'm not sure...). For me, it was a bit too slowly paced and I felt a bit restless at a couple of points along the way. The action does pick up though and the last couple of hundred pages are fantastically quick and drag the reader along riotously.
My favourite thing (as so often is the case) were the characters. They were fairly complex and the "good" characters had darker elements and all but one of the "bad" characters had some redeemable aspects. Raven is one of the main good characters but harbours a fanatical hatred of the 'heretics' due to a childhood trauma and his dealing with this prejudice is interesting. Equally, Duke Brael is despicable and vile but at times there are glimmers of the grief and fury that drive him on and its difficult not to occasionally sympathise.
This was self-published and, unfortunately and possibly consequently, there were quite a number of grammatical/typing errors which can be annoying if you notice that kind of thing. One minor character's name is spelt in a couple of different ways and the lack of consistency in was a bit irritating.
Also, it seemed as though the story drove the novel and some elements were forgotten or abandoned along the way. Ruby Fenn, for example, is a fantastic character and was one of my favourites who helps draw a lot out of Raven. However, somewhere between page 500 and 600, she just stops being in the story with very little mention of what has happened to her and no mention at all of what will happen to her.
It almost seems like the ending was rushed out and the novel is incomplete....I gave it three stars solely mostly because I found the latter half of the story to be quite exciting despite its flaws. Would I read a sequel? Probably not...
Overall: It's an ambitious first novel and good fantasy story but lacking some attention to detail. I'd recommend it but only to real fans of fantasy who are used to the longer, 'epic' type fantasy and a somewhat forgiving reader.
(reviewed 36 days after purchase)
on Oct. 12, 2010 :
Readable but average fantasy adventure, the magic system is slightly imaginative but nothing special. Likewise nothing else in the world or characterisations mark any particular departure from the norm. Especially disappointing is the very obvious black and white distinctions between 'good' and 'evil'.
'Raven' is unsurprisingly an apprentice to one of the major 'magic' dealing guilds. His appointed task is to guide a noble's daughter across the Frontier because she thinks it will be an adventure. En route Raven learns that his Tutor guards one of three exceptionally important trinkets, and that someone appears to be intent on gathering all three together. You can piece the rest of the plot together all too predictably.
One major flaw permeates this edition of the entire work, throughout the work the word "knew" has been spelt as "new". This basic typographical error is just unacceptable in anything purporting to be professional work.
The world's magic is based on Faith, which the caster imagines as a stream of power that they can dip into, "siphoning" some off for their use. Rather peculiarly this doesn't diminish the stream, but they do have limited amounts of siphon ability. One of the big inconsistencies is that in the early parts of the book each user has to recover by chewing a special root. Later on when they are bereft of supplies, no-one notices, and it doesn't make any difference to their magic casting ability. The attributes of the "god" that they have Faith in, are not mentioned. However it is required that people believe in the caster's abilities for them to work. This could have been an interesting plot point, adding depth and experience to the casters. But it's ignored and or taken for granted.
The very obvious Evil team worship a "devea" who is obviously not the same as the "god". For no explained reason the lead badguy (oh yes it's a guy, no bad women in this world), is called a Kindred, which is usually a term for a vampire. But in the manner of this book, no details are given and he behaves entirely like a human the whole way through.
It's readable, the prose (apart from that one annoying error) is well constructed, and some of the details of the caving section are actually pretty reasonable. But there's nothing to recommend it above average, and I'm unlikely to seek out the entirely predictable sequel that is due.
(reviewed 24 days after purchase)
on Oct. 11, 2010 :
Love this book, it's story, it's characters, the way it is written. I would have enjoyed so much reading on and know how the story goes on.
(reviewed 27 days after purchase)