Aegis Rising is the debut novel of S.S. Segran and was first published in 2013. It is a fantasy story with science fiction elements which focuses on a group of five children after they survive a plane crash in a remote corner of Canada. A portion of sales of this novel also goes to the Aegis League, a charity that provides life skills training and micro-loans to disadvantaged youths. Aegis Rising is the first installment of a planned series but at the time of writing no sequel has been released.
Jag, Mariah, Aari, Tegan and Kody are heading off on holiday when their plane is struck by lightning and forced to crash land. They are rescued by the citizens of Demi Ki, a hidden village where the natives have thrived for centuries without being disturbed by outsiders. These peaceful people believe in an ancient prophecy which foretells that a firebird will herald the arrival of five chosen ones who will help to save their village. Believing that the burning plane is the firebird from their legends, the village Elders assume that the five teenagers are to be the heroes of legend.
Over their stay in the village, the Elders gradually begin to teach them the secrets of Demi Ki, imparting their methods of tapping into the latent abilities of a person to unleash superhuman powers. Yet not everyone in the village is as welcoming to the newcomers. Hutar, a youth with unusually potent abilities, believes that the heroes of legend cannot possibly be outsiders and plots to destroy them.
However, outside the village lurks an even bigger threat. The river that supplies Demi Ki with water has been poisoned and all who drink from it suffer from violent rages and death. A band of scouts are sent into the mountains to discover the cause but never return. Although their training is incomplete, the five teenagers decide to help their new friends to save their home but what they discover as they venture to the north is more dangerous than they ever could have imagined…
Aegis Rising was a novel that started out incredibly well. The prologue immediately caught my attention through a mixture of action and supernatural occurrences and made me instantly want to know what happened next. The story did not release its hold on me for the next twenty chapters, raising question after question to keep me turning the pages. I wanted to learn more about Demi Ki. The village seemed to combine a number of different cultures – Inuit hunter-gatherers, Zen philosophy, modern western comforts – in a way that was unique and interesting that left me yearning for more. Unfortunately, the novel was unable to sustain this momentum in the long run.
I think part of the problem with the novel was it felt as though it was just too long. In the second quarter, the plot seemed to slow to a crawl. The story felt as though it had been heavily padded out in the wrong places. Absolutely everything that the characters did was described in detail. For example, if a character moved from one building to another, the author would describe everything that passed on route.
For me, this seemed to be too excessive, especially as some of the more important scenes are just skipped over. For example, we do not see a lot of the training that the protagonists undertake. This is especially noticeable in the section where they are all made to meditate in order to discover their latent gifts. Although this is actually a very important moment in the plot, very little of it actually occurs on the page. Most of the events are described to the reader after the even through exposition-heavy dialogue. Personally, I always find that writing of this type distances me from the events of the story and thus I quickly begin to lose interest in the book.
I also felt that the cast of the story were a little too large and spread out, which also added to the gradual slowing of the plot. The story was made up of many groups of characters who often acted independently of one another – the five, the Elders, Hutar, the search party, the villains – and thus the story often moved its perspective between each of these. While this is not necessarily problematic in itself, it did cause the action sequences to become noticeably slower. The climax of the novel was a huge siege on the enemy camp and yet as the eye of the observer was constantly dragged between at least eight different spectators, tension never had any real time to build. Just as I was beginning to get interested in what one character was doing the focus would change to another and would not return for twenty pages. This was a real shame as the climax was one of the best written portions of the story and I wish that I could have felt more invested in it.
The protagonists also took a very long time to start showing noticeable character traits. Although I got the vague impression at the start of the novel that Jag was the natural leader (although there were hints that he did not enjoy this role due to past trauma, only a fleeting reference to this back-story was made within the story and it served little purpose), Aari was the smart one and Kody was perpetually hungry, they seemed to have no personality beyond this. The two girls were particularly bland, seeming to be nothing more than blank slates that switched personalities rapidly dependent on the situation. I should note that after they receive their powers this problem does resolve itself as their gifts all seem to be reflections of their personalities, however I felt that they should have shown some character depth earlier in the story than this.
The largest issue that I had with regards to character was that of the villains. The true bad guys in the story are not introduced until over halfway through and, although they belong to some shady corporation run by a man known only as “the Boss”, we never actually learn what it is that they do and what their goals are for the operation in Canada. I really enjoy a good villain – one whose motivations are clear and make perfect sense, even if I don’t subscribe to their world view – but unfortunately all I got from this novel were 2-Dimensional characters who just seemed to be behaving evilly for the sake of being evil. Because of this, they did not leave any kind of lasting impression on me.
I’ve been rambling for a while now so I should probably wrap up. Although the novel had a very strong and exciting start, it quickly lost its momentum in the second quarter. The story was really hampered by a lot of unnecessary detail and a principle cast that felt a little too large. However the principle cast do begin to develop towards the end of the story, leaving me curious to see how they continue to grow in the next book. The story on the whole was a little underwhelming but it is fluently written and so a fantasy fan may get some enjoyment from it, on top of the added kudos of knowing that a portion of the money you spend will go to furthering a really great cause.
Aegis Rising can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk