The Amarias Adventures™ begin when 15-year-old Jesse befriends a band of young warriors and risks his life to find a cure for their poisoned leader, Parvel. Though Jesse has a crippled leg, he is asked to join the remaining warriors–part of an elite fighting force known as the Youth Guard–on their mission for the king. Facing danger at every turn, Jesse, Rae and Silas journey over treacherous mountains and across a scorching desert. To make matters worse, an unknown enemy seeks to end their quest before it has even begun. Where is Parvel’s God when they need Him most? And with so little information to guide them, how will they ever complete their mission and find the Scorpion’s Jewel? Will they even escape with their lives?
This is the first ARC I have ever received and I was so psyched about it until I realized that there’s an underlying Christian message. There was nothing on the request page that made me think it was a Christian novel (obviously I managed to skip the “Parvel’s God” part in the summary ) and of course there’s nothing wrong with Christian novels, but I wasn’t expecting it AT ALL. So what I’m going to do is just briefly touch on the Jesus imagery and focus more on the quest itself.
We start off meeting Demetri, the embattled captain of some desert “city.” He’s a tortured soul who was running from something that had to do with his brother. We learn during the introduction that the King of the land assembles a Youth Guard every year for show. He sends them on “missions” and then pays others to kill them off. The YG is made up of intelligent, strong teenagers who could one day challenge the king’s throne. Demetri is tasked to kill a band of Guards when it passes through his territory.
Cut to Jesse, a fifteen-year-old living with his aunt and uncle at an inn. He walks with a limp from an accident that happened when he was a child and his relatives are neglectful and abusive. His parents are gone. As stated in the summary, YG members show up at the inn, Parvel gravely wounded. Jesse takes them to a man named Kayne, who saves Parvel, but insists he can’t be moved. Jesse is recruited into this particular YG.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
There’s a lot of talk about God. Everyone keeps bringing up the same thing: if there was a God, why would he let people suffer so much? I’ll be honest. I skimmed everything that had to do with God or believing or whatever. It’s pretty apparent that in the end everyone will have a change of heart and revert to Christianity (and it is Christianity, because there’s some talk about Mary and the manger). And that’s really all I have to say about that.
For teenagers supposedly trained for tough missions, Silas and Rae are surprisingly dumb. They have no idea how to traverse unfamiliar geography, no knowledge of other languages, and seem to think they can storm in and demand things without repercussions. Silas is kind of stoic and Rae is “fiery,” which is another way of saying she’s a huge snot. Rae doesn’t have any redeeming qualities (though she’s not given much of a chance) and we don’t know much about Silas, other than his (dead) father was a priest. Halfway through the book, the kids are still traveling through the mountains, but this book is by no means a slow read. It’s only 180 pages, so it flies by. I started getting a little suspicious of this book’s motives around the halfway point, since Silas, Rae and Jesse are headed toward a land ruled by a sheik (this is the book’s spelling). I get nervous when things seem to be headed in a “my god versus your god” debate, especially in YA fiction.
The trio survives a sandstorm and after that, Jesse constantly thinks they’re going to die. And, given the introduction, it’s totally possible, but this kid has no concept of optimism. Everything is death: deathly quiet, should have died, die from exhaustion. Man, Jesse, you’re bringing me down here! I thought you were going to go steal a jewel, not whine about being tired! What is this, a David Eddings novel? (I kid, I kid, David Eddings was my intro to fantasy when I was thirteen!) Silas and Rae are at each other’s throats for awhile because Silas thinks the rebels are “lawless criminals” while Rae can sort of understand their plight.
Real life sort of hits them in the face after they meet a merchant named Samar. When Amarian patrols show up to kill the YG, Samar helps them to hide, climbing down into a cave hidden by a cistern. Everyone complains about the rocky floor and the pit vipers, another indication that Youth Guard “training” leaves something to be desired. Eventually, they learn Samar is a smuggler, which sends everyone’s morals into a tizzy for awhile. In hiding the YG from the patrol (who we learn later was Demetri), Samar is now a traitor to Amarias, so he agrees to lead the YG to the Scorpion’s Jewel. The YG are planning on simply waltzing into the palace and demanding the jewel from the sheik. Best. Plan. EVER.
They make it into the sheik’s palace with some help from Samar and Jesse suddenly turns into a Shakespearean actor, goading the idiot sheik to bring out the jewel. However, Demetri shows up then and everyone gets thrown into prison. Samar gets Jesse a message, but Jesse doesn’t understand it. Demetri shows up and launches himself into full-on Monologuing Villain mode. He tells Jesse everything we already know and then Jesse, Rae and Silas are led off to be executed. They escape.
This is the first book in a series, but I’ll not be continuing it. Though labeled YA, it seems a bit young for that genre. There is literally no romance at all, very little character development and the worldbuilding is shoddy. This is a book for a preteen boy, I think. It’s easily read in a day, but it’s hard to stay focused on the material.