Twenty years ago, in the land of Piaxia, the corrupt royal family was put to the sword by a group of determined warlocks known as the Brotherhood. In the present, the now-ruling warlocks each hold sway over individual towns. The story begins when Kurmia, warlock lord of the town of Lia, takes steps to eliminate the other warlocks and assume the title of emperor over the land of Piaxia. Soon, rumors arise that as least one royal family member survived the slaughter years ago, one who now has a rightful claim to the throne. Among the many searching for this long-lost princess--and a way to halt Kurmia’s climb to power--is Master Capolidu, master trainer of the Brotherhood, his brave apprentice, a shepherd with mysterious powers, and a crafty merchant. The plot builds slowly, and the royal survivor element, which was the driving interest factor for me, personally, is introduced quite a ways into the story. While it’s a perfectly nice plot-driven fantasy, very few of the characters stood out to me at all--a major flaw in my mind, at least. But for those who don’t mind a story that focuses on plot-crafting rather than character development, this story is for you.
Lance Rock, a Canadian teen, has been home-schooled since he was a child--but the education he has received is far from ordinary. Scott, his mentor of 12 years, is a former CIA operative. He has trained his young pupil in a broad range of subjects, such as multiple languages, computer hacking, and martial arts. But at 18, Lance is tired of his "training" and eager to live a "normal" life like his public school friends. He breaks off his training--and his relationship with his mentor--to travel to a high school in California as a foreign exchange student. Here, he meets his host family, Stacy Muller, a single mother, and her two teenaged daughters, Shannon and A.J. There's also an assortment of new classmates, including Reina, a sultry female exchange student from Japan. Once lodged with the Mullers, however, he quickly comes to realize that this semester will be far from the "fun" he was seeking. His new school happens to be crawling with bullies (most of them from the football team). He also discovers that his host family is being terrorized by a group of mystery men--and Stacy, his host-mother, wants to keep their predicament under wraps! How will Lance, former homeschooled student, face up to the social protocol of public high school? And who is the gang tormenting his beloved host family? Beck's novel traces Lance's high school experience, from taking on the high school goons, to defending his host family's household from sadistic strangers.
To be honest, I really wasn't quite sure what to think about the story. I wasn't sure if the author was poking fun at the martial arts genre, or writing a serious story. Some of Lance's good-guy gestures are so grandiose as to be borderline satirical. After he frees the student body from the tyranny of the football team, the rejoicing he describes that follows is equal only to "Moses free[ing] the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian bondage..." (164). Then there's Reina, Lance's classmate, who also specializes in martial arts and affectionately refers to him as "Lance-san" and "Samurai-san." However, these complaints aside, I actually found the novel to be rather fun in a mindless, corny sort of way. So, my verdict? An entertaining read, but far from serious literature. Recommended for Ages 16-18.