Title: The Ranger of Marzanna.
Series: The Goddess War #1.
Writer(s): Jon Skovron.
Format: Advance Review Copy.
Release Date: April 21st, 2020.
My Overall Rating: ★☆☆☆☆.
Siblings can be a pain. Whether it’s the inability of the youngest ones to understand the lessons passed down by their elders or the refusal of the oldest ones to allow their little brothers and sisters a chance to forge their own identity through trial and error, there’s nothing easy in this bond tied by blood. While some continue to love each other despite the omnipresent hate, others let go and move on without second thoughts. Having debuted his adult fantasy career with his Empire of Storms trilogy, once-actor now-author Jon Skovron looks to deepen this relationship through a brand-new fantasy trilogy with Poland/Russian influence.
What is The Ranger of Marzanna about? Following the murder of their father by imperial soldiers, Sebastian Turgenev Portinari, a teenager with gifted elemental powers, is recruited by the Aureumian Empire, the very faction that killed his faster, to become a valuable asset in an upcoming war against the Uaine Empire who known for their army of the dead. His sister Sonya Turgenev Portinari, however, has other plans for his brother’s betrayal as she channels her training as a Ranger of Marzanna to join the opposition in their plans to invade Izmoroz and take down the nobility that now hosts the remainder of her family. As they each go through their respective forms of training, a war putting them both up against each other is inevitable as their personae refuse to allow each other a life free of tragedy.
Falling flat in its attempt to deliver a refreshing fantasy adventure, author Jon Skovron presents a perfect example of too much telling and very little showing through characters who are less than comprehensible in their actions, thoughts, and dialog. Flawed beyond understanding, both protagonists revel in despicable personalities as they mercilessly progress through this story with firm conviction in their beliefs. With almost little sensitivity to any themes explored, whether it’s love or power, author Jon Skovron rushes through each of their development, blatantly skipping over their characterization, with no regard to the reader’s attachment to his characters.
Spelling everything out without allowing any form of interpretation from the reader, he quickly dismisses any desire to get us invested in his characters, his world or his story. It doesn’t help when the absence of style in writing is also not only frustrating but gives this novel the impression of being a pitiful parody of military fantasy. Forget about a clever strategic approach to warfare, this novel pretends to understand the subgenre and cluelessly incorporates a couple of violent and gory sequences with incredible insensitivity. Top it off with a poorly developed magic lore limited to certain characters (whether it’s the Lady Marzanna culture or the elemental magic system), the whole story consumes itself in its flaws, unable to step out of the flames it ignites along the way.
The plot’s pacing also denotes awkward progression that invites unfathomable inconsistencies. Imagine a 16-year-old child with potential wizardry skills progressing through army ranks faster than you can count to sixteen while also pretending to be an adult. The story ultimately feels like an immature battle of siblings who happen to have everything go their way, thus presenting us with a war between factions that, at first, seemed to hold much more gravity than what is delivered in the end. While there are a few decent ideas introduced in the first book of The Goddess War—although they are hastily skimmed over—they didn’t succeed in standing out enough to save this tale.
The Ranger of Marzanna is a hinderingly dull fantasy story revolving around foolish siblings as rivals preparing a lackluster war between the Aureumian and Uaine Empires.
Thank you Orbit for this advance review copy!