LitStack Review: Alliance – The Paladin Prophecy Book 2 by Mark Frost

by Sharon Browning
Alliance: The Paladin Prophecy Book 2 Alliance
Mark Frost
Random House
Release Date:  January 7, 2014
ISBN 978-0-375-87046-7

Adventure/fantasy lit for young readers is really hot right now.  Really hot.  I’m not talking the young adult supernatural vampires and werewolves or zombies material – I mean stories where kids, sometimes barely into their teens, are thrust into situations where their bravery and instincts can make or break the world, or at least civilization as they know it.  Think Percy Jackson.  Think Katniss Everdeen.  Think Artemis Fowl or The Spiderwick Chronicles or think Harry freekin’ Potter.

Sure, these types of stories have been around forever.  But now they don’t just show up on library shelves – they show up on cineplex screens five stories tall in 3D and IMAX around the world.  Star Wars (still!), Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Tintin and his adventures… and now Will West and the Paladin Prophecy.  Or at least, soon.

Oh, you haven’t heard of Will West and the Paladin Prophecy?  Well, let me fill you in….

The Paladin Prophecy is a series of novels being written for young readers by Mark Frost, who is perhaps best known (at least by adults) for being the co-creator of television’s wildly bizarre series of the 1990s, “Twin Peaks”.  He also co-wrote both Fantastic Four movies, and wrote the screenplay for The Greatest Game Ever Played (which he also produced, and the movie was based on his own bestselling book), so he is no stranger to literature, fantasy, pop culture, and the entertainment industry.

The reason why I mention this is that even before the first book of the series was published, film rights for The Paladin Prophecy had been acquired by Reliance Entertainment and Kintop Pictures in a reportedly seven figure deal.  The first installment of the trilogy, with screenplay by Mark Frost (based on the first book of the series, which was published in September 2012) is scheduled to be released sometime this year.  Pretty heady stuff, even for the shenanigans of Tinseltown.

The original book of the series, The Paladin Prophecy: Book 1, introduces us to our young hero, Will West, a boy who moves around with his parents a lot, and is told to lay low and not draw attention to himself.  A smart, athletic kid, Will has no reason to doubt his loving, slightly eccentric parents – that is, until mysterious men in dark suits take over his parents and Will is forced to flee.  Through his quick wit, some rather amazing burgeoning abilities, and the sudden intervention of strangers, Will finds himself whisked away from his home territory in California to an exclusive – and reclusive – prep school for extraordinary students tucked deep in the woods of northern Wisconsin, known only as The Center.

It is here that Will, along with his equally gifted roommates, stumble on a sinister underground society of students known as the Knights of Charlemagne.  From there, hints of an age old conflict that predates mankind and alludes to monsters from another dimension who battle with denizens of Heaven promise an ever widening circle of discovery, intrigue and danger for Will and his friends.

Book 2 of the Paladin Prophecy series, Alliance, just released recently, is able to take the exposition, world building, back story and character building so deftly laid out in the first book, and finally get to the gristle of the bigger story of the trilogy hinted at in Book 1.  (You will definitely need to read the first book in order to fully appreciate the second, although with a very healthy suspension of disbelief, Alliance could be read as a stand-alone novel… well, with a cliff-hanger ending.)  The current Knights of Charlemagne may have been dispersed, but Will and his friends Nick, Ajay, Elise and Brooke are just now fully understanding how long and how deeply the Knights have been infiltrating politics, affecting history through the years and across the globe.

And Will knows even more than the others.  His own surprising heritage, the harrowing experiences he has seen and been a part of, and the information given from – dare I say it, his guardian angel (an Aussie named Dave, no less) – has enmeshed Will even more deeply into the conflict between The Other Side (who reside just outside of our reality in a realm he knows as the Never-Was) and the Hierarchy, who he assumes are the good guys.  Story lines from the first book continue to thread through the second, with every new discovery opening up even more intrigue and another layer of threat.  And then, there’s that cliff-hanger ending, which will make waiting for the final installment pretty darned hard.

I was amazed at the depth and complexity of the storyline plotted out so far in the Paladin Prophecy story arc, and how author Frost was able to allow it to unfold in a coherent and easily absorbed manner.  I mean, just trying to relay it in a few succinct paragraphs is almost impossible!  This is a good thing – just because literature is meant for younger audiences doesn’t mean that it has to be simplistic and one dimensional!  Yet it remains entertaining and appropriate for young audiences and older fantasy enthusiasts alike.  It should make for some rather amazing cinematic thrills and twists.

I did take issue with major flights of believability, though.  The scope of abilities that these kids exhibit, and how they seem to appear and expand at just the right moments to get out of sticky situations, strained my tolerance for uber-leetness in heroic situations, and some of their skills are just downright ridiculous (a youngster being able, with no discernible manufacturing training and without drawing attention of instructors or facilities supervisors, to craft a perfectly balanced high-density carbon steel hatchet or a raft patterned after Zodiac rafts used by Navy Seals, “surreptitiously” fashioned from a latex mold, or the ability of being able to project thoughts and images in others’ minds expanding to being able to physically move inanimate – and powered – objects).  Let alone such a facility as The Center, which not only boasts the school itself but a highly advanced medical center, and a lake with an island that holds a castle which now is the residence for an extremely successful billionaire, not creating shockwaves of “wtf” in numerous levels of reality:  law enforcement, transportation, tax base, heck, intramural activities with other schools… And if the student body, numbering in the hundreds, are as smart as they are touted to be, why is it only a mere handful realize that there are strange goings on in the athletic complex….

Plus, there seems to be a real dearth of diversity.  Of the five power roommates, only one is a kid of color, and that is a stereotypical super-smart, but rather spindly boy of Indian descent (half Indian, half Polish).  No African-Americans (well, one that I can recall, but he’s only in the first book and he doesn’t really factor into the story as a fleshed out character), no Asians, no Hispanics.  Oh, there is one Hispanic in the first book; a guy who runs a taxi service, who, immediately upon meeting Will, unquestioningly serves as the kid’s hidden eyes “back home” even though it puts him in grave peril; he doesn’t figure in the second book at all, even though he is almost killed by alien monsters going above and beyond in order to get Will key clandestine information.  Many of the security guards at the school are Samoan – warrior-types, of course.  And everyone on campus – all the students at least; well, all the female students, at least – are absolutely drop dead gorgeous.  This concern will need to be addressed when/if the movie version is released.

Still and all, by the end of the second book, I was pretty much all-in.  Author Frost had thrown in a few twists that I had not anticipated but highly appreciated.  The characters, while stretching credulity, remained consistent in their personalities, quirks and motivations.  The banter is quick and fresh, and the writing is not all tense – there are humorous moments not just sprinkled but pervasive throughout, with a lack of cynicism and a genuine “we can do it” mentality that one would expect of youngsters on the cusp of adulthood, even in dire situations.  The friendships resonate, and the touch of romance is not intrusive nor forced.  The tension pulses, and there is little sensationalism but a dash of the grotesque – just how kids will like it and parents will appreciate.

And I must admit, I was taken in with the cliff-hanger at the end of Alliance.  And I’ll further confess that, even with the caveats I had in the first two books of this trilogy, I am anxiously awaiting the third and final volume.

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1 comment

spearsoilder143 26 January, 2014 - 2:18 am

An absolutely fantastic and informative review. After just finishing this book myself I also can’t wait for the next book, especially after that cliff hanger!

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