PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

Soon after discovering a mysterious baby in the woods and beginning to learn magic from the crabby old woman who lives there, young Mandigo is suddenly whisked off the Bloodstone Wizard Academy to be tutored in controlling his Gift. Along the way the hidden truths of his life become revealed.

Mandigo and the Hellhounds reads something like an attempted novelisation of an anonymously authored legend, but unfortunately not a very good one. Every story beat is relayed in a matter-of-fact fashion without embellishment or barely even any reaction, meaning that the overall emotion running through the story is utter indifference. While it’s difficult to be certain whether the bland prose is the fault of the author or the translator, it’s probably not unfair to assume the former given that this is Reemark’s debut novel.

Various hints indicate the story takes place on an After the Fall Earth following an event known as the Storm, but it’s a piece of set dressing that, like much of the rest of the book, has little bearing of the advancement of the story. Characters drift in and out of the plot without having any real impact on Mandigo, nor are they themselves developed in any way, to the extent that they are merely names on the page. Even the few for whom some minor secret is divulged still have no bearing on anything that takes place.

The base concept of a fantasy saga’s protagonist ending up the apprentice to the dark lord actually had the potential to be a quite interesting variation on the archetypical hero’s journey – imagine if Luke Skywalker had been tutored by Darth Vader – but the narrative’s lack of focus squanders the opportunity, shuffling its way through short and often disconnected chapters that never truly go anywhere. While it never approaches, say, the unendurable tedium of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, the story takes too long to figure out where its actually heading and what it needs to do to get there, while along the way it consists of little more than an assortment of inconsequential events and arbitrary revelations neither foreshadowed nor built upon.

Mandigo and the Hellhounds is the first book of a trilogy, but it has a long way to go before it develops into the compelling saga of darkness versus light it clearly believes itself to be.


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