Yet another review from my husband. I should have some new reviews up shortly...
[Synopsis from book cover] Unemployed after graduation, Kenneth McNary seeks inspiration on the
I just finished reading W. L. Hoffman’s work The First Mother’s Fire, which is book one of what will be The Soulstealer War series. Hoffman, a law professional by day, has been a science-fiction and fantasy lover all his life and while toiling away at law school, the foundation for The Soulstealer War was born. Years later he penned his ideas to paper and created The First Mother’s Fire, which is his first literary attempt, and as such, is impressive.
Kenneth McNary is a law graduate deciding what to do with his future by taking a few months off to hike on the
I enjoyed Hoffman’s descriptive storytelling and the world he used to explore his various themes. The world he created is very satisfying. Weir as the older “inner” world filled with magic and history, and Earth as the newer “outer” world corrupting nature with no respect for magic. I think his character development is superb; he gives us both physical descriptions of the different races and also lets us into their mindset of why they believe and act the way they do. He uses his magic system to help explore the themes of environmentalism and religion. Weir’s world is based on magic from the First Mother and is tied to nature; the first tree that Kenneth camped under protecting him was a great example of the nature aspect and is something I enjoyed immensely being more aware of today’s lack of respect for natural resources. The souldrinking concept of the Nosferu was very entertaining, but The Soulstealer’s Doom black armor was perhaps the best use of a magical device to test the protagonist’s inner strength.
Although Hoffman’s approach is novel, his themes are similar to many science-fiction/fantasy books. Good verse evil, free will verse destiny, compassion verse greed, logic versus creativity, meaning of life and death and the compassion within. Hoffman plays no tricks with these; you absolutely know he is questioning and exploring, logic, compassion, religion, destiny.
One of the few criticisms I have with that is that it could be more subtle, especially when dealing with Kenneth’s italicized thoughts. At one lengthy soliloquy I found myself skimming the paragraph. Some more mature fantasy readers might feel like they’re getting cheated since they are not able to discover them on their own. What makes up for this weakness is the way he shows the inner struggle of Kenneth.
My only other criticism is a criticism of many fantasy books--serialization. While I’m not sure what Hoffman’s plans are for Kenneth, or how many books it will take to get there, I do know that upon finishing the last paragraph I turned the page looking for more. The end of book one didn’t seem climatic enough for me to warrant the end. That being said I’m a big fan of many series that have this same problem, the books themselves are not standalone novels, but the series are extremely gratifying – and I recommend this book to fantasy readers of all ages.