“What we’re about to do will change you. Forever.”
Thank you very much to R.D. Gennari for providing a copy of his novel in exchange for an honest review.
R.D. Gennari’s Battle for Skeptron: The First Uncovering is an epic space opera that brilliantly encapsulates the usual elements of sci-fi and fantasy and presents them in a wholly unique and original manner. The book is remanent of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse series, which adds a sense of bittersweet nostalgia to the reading experience.
The novel follows Areus, a young and innocent wrestler of the powerful Torian race, who tags along on a quest with a former teacher of his in order to locate the hidden pieces of the artefact known only as the Skeptron. Along the way, Areus and his new gang of friends discover that evil and ancient creatures are awakening on the planet Númaria, monsters long-thought dead returning amid the return of the Dark Overlord Ahstra, who seeks to use the mysterious Skeptron to take over the planet. Areus must battle terrifying monsters, contend with a Senate that refuses to believe the Overlord has returned and who uses its own people as slaves, and discover his secret destiny that seems to be intertwined with a young human girl named Belvara.
I haven’t read a proper science fiction novel in a long while, and reading Battle for Skeptron was like returning to that familiar and welcoming world of intriguing aliens, grand space battles, terrifying creatures and malevolent villains. Battle for Skeptron was a rollercoaster ride of a novel that upped the tension and suspense by a tenfold. The novel easily draws the reader into a colourful and highly-developed universe, where relevant histories and information about the fascinating planet Númaria is revealed as necessitated by the novel’s plot.
“The Formatorians once said … as long as one of them is left, they would die fighting.”
By far the best and strongest element of the novel is Gennari’s superb world-building. I read that the author has been working on this series for close to ten years and that is immediately apparent. I adore novels where the author has taken time in developing their world; not content with just the immediate storyline, the author invents a history of their world that spans a thousand years and adds a sense of realism to the plot. Although in a sci-fi novel realism usually goes out the window, Gennari’s careful and well-researched background history and world-building made me feel as if I were standing beside Areus on Númaria myself.
Areus was a sweet and unassuming character. I didn’t expect him to be so young – a mere 16 years old – and was pleasantly surprised when it was revealed. He was very innocent, nervous, short, and quite average at Lùkari, the Torian version of marital arts. He acts like a 16 year old does, too, not like a hero about to undertake a perilous journey and I’m thankful that Gennari made that decision. No matter what destiny Areus has, at the end of the day, he is still an adolescent with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and Gennari always reminds us of that. In a novel full to the brim of a wide-range of interesting characters, Gennari has chosen an ideal protagonist, where the reader will follow along on his journey of self-discovery. I look forward to watching Areus grow into the role of hero in the next book in the series.
“Esa ilea te mana Doro,” Santia said in the Formaturian tongue. “‘You are dear to me.’ I would do anything to make your anguish go away. The pain. The fear. The uncertainty. What brought you to this point was your perseverance and your courage. The planet has changed, Areus. Beyond Toria lies a vast world. A world that is being strangled by darker forces.”
My favourite character was, without a doubt, Santia, Areus’ mentor. Santia is a Lampros, one of the guardians of the planet Numaria, and of the magical amulets. He is the epitome of a strong mentor, who goes out of his way to both protect Areus and hone his skills. Santia reminded me so much of Dumbledore from Harry Potter, which is why I think I looked forward to the scenes he was in. He could be cold sometimes, but there is no doubt that he deeply cared for Areus and wanted the best for him.
While the central villain Ahstra does not make an appearance in the novel, many of his aggregates and servants do. Gennari has a powerful imagination in his descriptions of terrifying alien creatures. From the megathero, to the rifas, to the fascinating Exitras, the large cast of evil creatures increased the suspense of the novel to the point where I was gripped at the very edge of my seat. I was so intrigued by the Exitras, the once great kings and queens of old Numaria who gave their allegiance to Ahstra centuries ago, and had been transformed into dark monsters. These villains were all wonderfully disturbing, and I can’t wait to see what else Gennari has in store for us.
“They raise their eyes to the firmament, but they are unable to find a direct path to salvation.”
If I didn’t know that this was Gennari’s debut novel, I would never have expected it to be as his writing is exceptionally mature and expressive. The prose is compelling, and allows the pacing and the storyline to develop naturally. Gennari also created his own language, which I was highly impressed by. I really enjoyed the inclusion of this made-up language as it lent an authenticity to the text and shows Gennari is a true fantasy and sci-fi aficionado.
Battle for Skeptron: The First Uncovering was a strong starter in what is sure to be an epic series. Gennari is a masterful story-teller who expertly wields sci-fi and fantasy elements, along with colourful characters and mature writing, which results in a powerful novel. If you are a lover of science-fiction, be sure to check out this bonafide Lord of the Rings set in space.