Thursday 25 September 2014

Review ~ Zenith by Dirk Strasser.

Title: Zenith (Ascension #1).
Author: Dirk Strasser.
Genre: Fantasy.
Publication Date: November 1, 2013.
Source: Review copy.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK | Amazon

Can you see the story breathing?


A mountain so great it takes a year to travel from base to summit
A sun so powerful it drives you into madness if you look at it
An ascent so vital it determines the fate of the world
A summit so precious it holds the key to the divine

The world of the great Mountain is unstable. Giant pillars erupt from the surface and yawning chasms form unpredictably underfoot. Since the Maelir first stood on its slopes in the distant past, they have sought to still its anger and control its power. Each year, twin brothers are chosen to make a perilous journey to the summit. If they survive they will be witness to Zenith, and the secrets will be revealed to them.

When Atreu and Teyth embark on their Ascent, their Talismans lead them onto conflicting paths that will ultimately set brother against brother. And this time the Ascent itself is in peril as unknown forces that have long craved the power of Zenith will stop at nothing to make it their own even if it means destroying the very thing that sustains all life the Mountain itself.

Zenith had a fascinating plot which completely drew my attention to the novel straight away. I love fantasy books which take the main character, and then the reader along with it, on a journey and this book is about Atreu and Teyth, twin brothers on their ascent up the Mountain. The world building in Zenith is fantastic – there’s a lot of vivid, strong detail which describes the setting perfectly and as the journey continues, though we’re introduced to a lot of new characters, it’s the world which captures the imagination and brings across the thing I love the most about good fantasy novels – a setting you just want to explore for yourself.

The novel starts off intriguing, with a beginning which really set my mind working and it felt unpredictable – I had no idea where this book was going to be taken and the mystery kept me reading. It was quite a slow-paced book and whereas at times this really added to the tension and brought edginess to the plot, at others I found it a bit tough-going. Towards the middle of the book, my attention was waning and there were moments that brought me back into it but I did think the journey around the half-way point, although it wasn’t boring, paled in comparison to earlier on in the book. I wanted it to keep me gripped the whole way through and it didn’t do that. As Zenith approached its ending, I liked it a lot more. It became much more compelling and interesting. I was sold. But I feel like the author showed so much skill and writing ability in some sections of the book that it was a little disappointing that my interest kept being lost.

Though I expected Atreu and Teyth to go on different journeys throughout Zenith, I was surprised how much this book focused on Atreu. The fact that they were twins felt quite built up early on so then to see it lacking a little was unexpected for me. The journey itself was about learning, and continually progressing forward. It was about trust and conflict and this aspect I found really captivating. There’s a lot of information built in to this book and rather than it feel like an overload, I found it easy to take in and that it added a lot to the journey. I did feel like if the author had worked on developing the characters as much as the actual world they’re in, I would have liked this novel a lot more. From the main characters to the small-part characters that were involved and then disappeared far too quickly, I generally felt disconnected to them and I wanted to learn more about them. Ultimately, Zenith was an absorbing concept and a satisfying read, cleverly put together and it’s definitely left me interested in the next book of the series. I just hope it feels like a more balanced and complete novel.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon

Dirk Strasser has won multiple Australian Publisher Association Awards and a Ditmar for Best Professional Achievement. His mythic fantasy series, The Books of Ascension, has been republished by Macmillan Momentum, this time including Eclipse – The Lost Book of Ascension for the first time in English. His novels and short stories have been translated into a number of languages. He also founded the Aurealis Awards and has co-edited and co-published Aurealis magazine for over twenty years.

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