Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Mini-Review: Mystic by Jason Denzel
Author Jason Denzel is best known for running the Wheel of Time fansite, Dragonmount, and in 2015, he published his debut novel, Mystic. Fans who know Jason (and I’m one, going back to my days spending untold of hours on Wheel of Time message boards), probably expect Jason’s novel to be world-spanning, epic fantasy adventure in the same vein of Wheel of Time. They would be wrong.
Mystic takes a different, more focused approach. This book is an origin story, almost a prequel to a series that hasn’t been published yet. It’s not (well, mostly not) the story of an epic journey to save the world. Mystic is the story of a young woman’s (Pomella) journey, her personal struggles against a severely stratified society, and her own baggage from that society. It’s the journey of a young woman breaking barriers and learning her magic. It’s heartwarming, sweet, with a good bit of misguided teenage action. In this, it’s a classic YA book with a good bit of cross-over appeal.
Yes, there is a threat, a threat that could have dire consequences to the world. But the threat feels almost contrived – it really was a placeholder, something to pitch the growth and struggles of Pomella against. In this way, the book is more about her own internal struggles than the external struggles around.
This internal, almost small-scale focus is both the strength and weakness of Mystic. The fan base Jason is chasing after is most likely expecting a sprawling epic that stand on the shoulders of 1990s era big fat fantasy. They may bounce off of the modest page count and ‘lower stakes’ journey of a young woman. That would be unfortunate, as the story is well told, even as it shows many of the signs of an author still in development rather than full command of their skills.
I enjoyed Mystic, and I look forward to reading what Jason does with this series in the future. However, it does not really cover any new ground. That’s not (necessarily) a bad thing – not every book can or should be groundbreaking, but in a time when so many exciting things are happening in the world of SFF books, this is the sort of thing that could fall through the cracks. Or maybe it’s the sort of book that could really take off due to its accessibility. It’s hard to say.