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Rise of the Slavekeepers

Rise of the Slavekeepers by Hugo V. Negron, Forging of a Knight #2

Qualtan has become a knight at last. With Glaive, the half-orcne thief by his side, he will join a host of new friends: Jesepha, the strong-willed female knight; her mentor, the elder knight Bartholomew, who carries a strange secret; the young and hot-headed knight Euric; the glum and impatient knight Richard; and the dashing merchant lord Visandus.

A seemingly routine mission will unravel into one of greater horror, involving inter-dimensional creatures, rival sea-faring pirate nations, and a face-to-face confrontation between Qualtan and Darksiege, one of Those That Stand in Shadow, at last! Should they somehow prevail, it will just be a precursor to an even GREATER threat!

Last summer saw the release of the self published Young Adult series of Hugo Negron: Forging of a Knight. I have to mention that I was firstly drawn to the book by the stunning book cover, and I know never judge a book by its cover. But just look at the cover! Anyway, the story of Forging of Knight proved to be made of a lot of good stuff as well and Hugo Negron played nicely into telling just the story that Young Adult adventures want to read with Epic Sword and Sorcery fantasy. Last month saw the release of the second book in the series Rise of the Slavekeepers, with all that I have come to learn our knight to be in shiny armor Qualtan, I was looking forward to dig in. And just as the first book, Rise of the Slavekeepers is a treat.

In the first book we were introduced to Qualtan, the main protagonist of the series, who had set his mind on becoming a knight. This all isn't so straightforward as it might sound. Qualtan's uncle and his father had really put a weight on his shoulders and he is constantly dragging this weight around, making him have to do his best and not wanting to let his friends down. Though this is a good virtue of a true knight, you could see the struggle that he had to deal with. And if this isn't enough, there are Those That Stand in Shadow, the bad guys of the story. The struggle of proving himself and the fight against Those That Stand in Shadow gave a clear introduction in the Forging of a Knight series. One thing I really liked about the first book was how Hugo Negron showed the perspectives of Those Than Stand in Shadow, giving voice to the nefarious thoughts, I just know a lot of young readers will fall for these lures.

The second book directly picks up where the first book was left. Again putting the focus on Qualtan, our hero and knight to be. Writing a sequel is always a tricky part especially in an epic adventure and a "coming-of-age" story, you need to keep momentum and action but not jumping to conclusion to soon, this part just done downright great. Hugo Negron knows how to write a sequel, playing greatly into the already existing layers of his story AND also taking his idea's more than a few steps further. Qualtan undergoes several changes, he is naive and on several parts doesn't have that much confidence in himself. But all that he thought of knighthood, does proofs to be quiet a different picture of what Qualtan had imagined, it isn't all glory. In Rise of the Slavekeepers, Qualtan is thrown in a lot of perils of his own in which he can only rely on his own. The first encounter with the dragon showed that Qualtan is virtuous and will do anything to save his friends. Later on Qualtan is separated from the other knights and this is part where his character really start to blossom and once united again, he had grown. The thing is, this "evolution" isn't sudden but takes place gradually and this is something you want to see in a coming of age and does the title Forging true justice. 

Besides Qualtan there are plenty of other characters that you follow along the story. They even have their own points of view, adding a nice few layers to the story. Showing their perspective help to keep a nice pacing into the storyline and because Qualtan was separated in the story, having the storyline split up between him and the others knights gave a nice broadening of the storyline. Some of the characters like Bartholomew and Jesepha were especially great to read about. They both stand out in terms of there characteristics. Bartholomew is called by Qualtan as a somewhat "sage-knight" he is wise and tries to teach all the youngsters some valuable lessons. Jesepha, the only female knight, though she was introduced a bit with out a real face, her character starts to develop nicely once you get deeper into the story and even so far as having a bit of an emotional monologue as to why she became a knight and how she has pressure on her shoulders to preform. Come to think of it, how could I forget the Half-Orcne Glaive! Glaive has been Qualtan's best friend and they both have endured and are still enduring hardship just because they are friends. Orcnes are evil creatures and caused the humans a lot of problems, Glaive being a Half-Orcne is shouted at, frowned upon and despised. Several characters try to convince Qualtan that he has to abandon Glaive, else he can never be a true knight, who can associate himself with an evil creature? I really liked the part in which Qualtan shows his true friendship, that to his best friend Glaive. I don't know is there is a hidden message here but I think I can find one! Glaive is an great character, and looking at his heritage he has had a rough time but he is a hard worker and desperate to proof to he is different. All in all the characters are nicely fleshed out and Hugo Negron invests a lot of time into making them feel alive, Rise of the Slavekeeper isn't just a static story about Qualtan becoming a knight, it's more on the contrary it's dynamic and constantly changing, for the better.

Now what really struck me as a surprise was the broadened world to which we were introduced to. In the first book you knew that there were Orcnes and Elves and some more, but this is far from all the magnificent creatures in the Forging of a Knight series. In Rise of the Slavekeepers we learn more of the different Kind; Ogres, Dragon and even some interdimensional creatures! Yes, you read that correctly, the broadening of the story takes place through some extra dimensions. I think you know where Qualtan may have become lost now? If you would have told me that the Forging of a Knight series, an essentially epic fantasy adventure would include extra dimensions I would have had my reservations whether it would have worked out at all. But since I didn't and just read along the pages, all what Hugo Negron proposes works out full swing. This little extra will proof to be an interesting tool to use to further enrich the epic world of Forging of a Knight.  

I only have one minor remark about the story, Hugo Negron has a great knowledge in how to grab your attention when the battles take place, they are written with a definite flourish. It feels like you right down there fending of the undead dragon. However when I read the first few pages of the book, there are quite a few hard words in describing the world and several events that took the easy entry out of the story and besides that some of the dialogues that took place felt a bit forced and unnatural. This only took place in the start up of the story and once the 10% mark was passed everything seemed to start to loosen, dialogues got natural and it felt like I was drawn more and more into the story itself. 

And just lastly, considering this is an intended Young Adult story with a evil "force", another part that I enjoyed was the perspectives of Those That Stand in Shadow. There are several paragraphs in which you seem them scheme and reflect upon their actions. Adding this perspective to the story just further bolsters the epic feel in Rise of the Slavekeepers. Because as a reader you both get the actions and thoughts of Qualtan and his friends but also see the reactions of Those That Stand in the Shadow and vice versa, its good stuff. And then you have the final showdown of Qualtan and Darksiege, one of Those That Stand in Shadow... If this is just a glimpse of it all, I am eager to find out what will be in store for the thirds story. It's gonna be epic. 

Rise of the Slavekeepers is a great sequel to the first book in the series. Hugo Negron shows exactly how the take his story further, building on several foundations that were lain in the first book but also keeping the story mighty interesting by introducing a lot of new concepts, not as an information dump but constantly feeding new leads going from new characters, new places in this world and in other dimensions and new creatures. Also on top of this all, Hugo Negron is a self-published author, pulling of two solid books can be a challenge. It's these kind of sequels that I like to read. The Forging of a Knight series is full of great idea's that a lot of youngster are bound to enjoy.

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