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Thursday, April 27, 2017

SPFBO: Paternus by Dyrk Ashton (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order Paternus HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Dyrk Ashton is a writer, educator, filmmaker and former actor active in storytelling and media making. Born and raised in the Ohio, he spent his formative years in the American Midwest wherein he got a BFA, Masters & PhD in the field of filmmaking & Movie studies. Dyrk loves the outdoors and even more the genre of speculative fiction. He currently resides in Ohio, but the fantasy landscape is the place he calls his true home. Paternus is his debut.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Gods, monsters, angels, devils. Call them what you like. They exist. The epic battles between titans, giants, and gods, heaven and hell, the forces of light and darkness. They happened. And the war isn't over.

17 year old Fi Patterson lives with her stuffy English uncle and has an internship at a local hospital for the aged. She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, misses her dead mother, wonders about the father she never knew. One bright spot is caring for Peter, a dementia-ridden old man whose faraway smile can make her whole day. And there's her conflicted attraction to Zeke -- awkward, brilliant, talented -- who plays guitar for the old folks. Then a group of very strange and frightening men show up for a "visit"...

Fi and Zeke's worlds are shattered as their typical everyday concerns are suddenly replaced by the immediate need to stay alive -- and they try to come to grips with the unimaginable reality of the Firstborn.

"Keep an open mind. And forget everything you know..."

FORMAT/INFO: Paternus is 479 pages long divided into three parts which are further divvied up into thirty-three titled chapters with a prologue & epilogues. There’s also an acknowledgement section along with a few other extras. Paternus is the first book in a  an unnamed trilogy and can be read as a standalone.

May 1 2016 marked the e-book and paperback publication of Paternus and it was self-published by the author. Cover art is by Lin Hsiang & cover design is by Brie Rapp.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Imagine a novel or story that’s hard to describe, there have been quite a few of them over the past few years. Now with those stories, you can break them down and still make sense to whomever you are describing them to. But then there are those books that even when broken down, they are hard to encapsulate within genre, style or even plot. These are those rare gems that can go either way but usually have a core following and considered classics by many. I’m glad to say Paternus can be added to that small list as well. Paternus was a SPFBO finalist chosen by the fine folks over at Fantasy Faction & I can’t thank them enough for selecting this amazing debut.

Paternus is a doozy of a story and I mean it in the nicest way possible. To summarize the start of the main plot like I do with all my reviews is going to nigh impossible with this one but I’ll try my best. The first 10 chapters reveal a constantly rotating cast of characters some of them human, most of them immortals or near immortal as you can get. The storyline while beginning from a current time standpoint has its roots in a conflict that spans eons or yugas (this will be clear to fellow aficionados of Hindu mythology). The few humans who are introduced into this conflict are Fiona Patterson and her friend (maybe boyfriend) Zeke. Fiona is a teenager who has been orphaned and interns in a geriatric hospital wherein she takes care of a guy suffering from dementia named Peter. Fiona or Fi as she’s fondly called by everyone close to her, lives with her uncle Edgar who is as docile as they come and encourages her while successfully straddling her exasperating teenage antics from time to time. Fi and Zeke have a weird turn in their blossoming friendship but before things can settle down. They both learn a few secrets about Peter, Uncle Edgar and Fi herself. It’s from here on we are taken on a ride of global proportions and epic intensity as they run into several other beings who also take POV turns and find out more about the true nature of the world.

The biggest plus point that I can reveal about this story is the author’s imagination and his love for the various world mythologies, lore & religiosities. Plus I cannot state this enough as to how masterfully Dyrk Ashton has seemingly combined them to put forth a grand unified theorem for world mythologies. So far amidst all the various urban fantasy and literary fantasy books that I’ve read not one book has even come close to the mythological finesse that is showcased within Paternus. Kudos to you Dyrk Ashton for managing to write an epic story that combines all of the world mythos and makes it coherent. Especially with this I would like to point out one very cool thing that the author has done, I’m a big mythology nerd and being Indian, reading all of Hindu mythology's myriad texts and stories has been a lifelong hobby of mine. So you all can imagine how thrilled I was to see the author include Shiva, Parvati, Nandi, Indra and several other cool aspects (Deva/Asura/etc.) of Hindu mythology. Also with the usage of several Sanskrit terminology, the author not only managed to get the words correct but also made it very contextual within the plot. As a desi reader to see a non-subcontinental person utilize these things so solidly made my inner mythology nerd do an orgasmic Tandav.

The next thing which I enjoyed about this book was the characterization and I’m not talking about the humans here. This book focusses a lot on various individuals who can simply be described as gods, demons and a whole bunch of other mythological personae. To give them all distinct personalities and not anthropomorphize them is a Herculean task. However it is one which the author manages to perform adroitly. It was interesting to read about these beings and see their thoughts about the modern world (a particularly funny example of this is one such being who is trying to make a specific species of beasts classified as "endangered" as they are his earthly brethren and hold a special place in his mother’s heart).

These beings were so crucial to the storyline and to make them distinct and showcase them not simply as monsters but truly as higher order creatures with their own agendas was what made me enjoy this story even more. Also the author doesn’t just use European and Christian mythos, he goes beyond anyone else I’ve ever read to include Indian, Sumerian, Japanese, African, Mesopotamian and several other Asian mythologies. This felt truly global and the interactions that occur as well as the backstory for the eons-old struggle that is going on has been laid bare in a very methodical & quizzical way. There are hints laced throughout the story and it’s particularly fun to try to connect the dots along with the characters. I must admit that I didn’t quite get them all but those which I did, it was exhilarating to see them pan out in the story later on.

The action sequences are truly mind boggling as the story progresses become more and more frequent as well. There’s an undeniable horror element to these action sequences which involve the immortals and it is entirely fitting. Some reviewers have described these scenes as very blockbuster-esque and I’ve to agree. If this book were ever to be made into a movie/tv series (HBO), I would be first in line to watch it. The book’s latter half more than makes up for the lull in action in its preceding half and also ends on a humdinger of a climax (thankfully no cliffhangers here). Lastly the humor level in this book is often an understated one, there’s no laugh out loud moments but there truly are some comedic moments that are carefully woven in and brought a chuckle whenever I came across them. For most readers though, this effect might be completely dependent on your comedic tastes.

The one thing that I could say that is a big drawback about this book is for the starting few chapters the reader is introduced to a myriad number of characters and a lot is thrown at the reader which doesn’t make a lot of sense (at that moment). The readers will have to persevere through and it’s not a slog but it gets a tad exasperating to be introduced to a different character after another and not get a longer view at their lives. This was the main reason as to why this book scored an 8.5 in my view. This also is the sole negative point about this book IMHO. There’s also a couple of minor characters who seem a tad caricature-ish but then they are absolutely minor and I think one of them is also presented that way for comedic effect.

CONCLUSION: Paternus is a hard book to classify but not a hard book to like or enjoy. It can be a considered a classic in the making as it’s one of those books that doesn’t have any predecessor. But in the future will be considered the pratham of its own sub-genre. Paternus is an absolute gem of a story and Dyrk Ashton is a bloody, terrific genius. Miss out on this one at your own risk


CTPhipps said...

Amazing review, Mihir. It's probably the single best one you've done. I agree with all of it, too, because it's such an impressive book. I did my own recently and couldn't help but compare it to Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Wow. Lots of greats in this one Mihir. Great job on a great sounding book.


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