Thursday, July 19, 2012

PROPHET by R. J. Larson

Prophet is a 2012 young adult fantasy novel by R. J. Larson, the first in her Books of the Infinite series. Here, a teenage girl is appointed the prophet of the Infinite (God) and sent to preach repentance to a foreign aggressor.

By design, Prophet has an extremely Old Testamental feel, which is a breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre. Elements of the story are borrowed from many of the biblical prophets; similarities to the stories of Moses and Elijah are most obvious. The concept is strong, and Larson executes it fairly well. Several of the showdown scenes are powerful and quite satisfying (in large part because of the novel’s Judeo-Christian analogs of repentance and salvation).

The characters are a definite strength of the novel. Ela is a strong, sympathetic protagonist, even if she does seem to get hung up on self-doubt fairly often, and the leads are compelling and have good chemistry. The supporting cast works well, even if some of them are a little flat.

There’s only one real issue with the storytelling, and it more or less works itself out by the midpoint of the book. Ela is able carry on conversations, more or less at will, with God. She seems to be the only one who can do this on a regular basis (although this is never explicitly stated). It is therefore odd that she never finds this remarkable. Either way, just who can and can’t communicate with the divine isn’t entirely clear early on, and this may cause confusion for the reader as he or she tries to figure out Larson’s fantasy world.

There are, however, a bunch of lesser issues that keep this very solid novel from being a great one. The book always moves at a good pace, but setting and place are not always sufficiently fleshed out, and sometimes scenes aren’t fully developed. The plot wanders from time to time and can be repetitious. The girl/boy/horse dynamic is reminiscent of Tangled (that’s not a compliment), and the horse-driven humor wears thin (He’s a real one-trick pony – ha ha, see what I did there? Yeah, sorry.).

Nevertheless, the good of Prophet heavily outweighs the bad, and on the whole, Prophet is a compelling and refreshing entry into the fantasy genre.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.