08 July, 2010

Review - The Ninth Avatar by Todd Newton

The first thing that drew me to The Ninth Avatar [US] [UK] (2010) by debut author Todd Newton was, like others, this awesome cover by Pete Thompson. It just screamed at me, you have to read this book!

Now add to that the fact that Todd Newton is a regular atSFFWorld.com, a great forum I frequent, I couldn't resist supporting a fellow forum member.
Wizards have wondered for generations when a human would ascend to become the Ninth Avatar, and what would happen when they did. Opinions differ, but the Ninth Pillar of Magic—that of Darkness—is feared by many whether they use magic or not.
When Starka, an outcast priestess of the magic loathing Cathedrals of Myst, receives a prophecy heralding this ascension, a new force rises to threaten the entire known world. The Carrion army, a race of transformed humans bearing black horns and an unquenchable thirst for blood, destroys every city it comes across. Their leader, Zion, has only one goal: to become the living embodiment of magic that is the Ninth Avatar.
Aiding Starka in her quest to halt this are DaVille, a mysterious warrior bent on killing the Carrion leader; Cairos, a wizard from the betrayed city of Illiadora; and Wan Du and Lady Mayrah, a man and woman from rival nations now decimated by the Carrion. Amidst all this turmoil, Wadam, a Cardinal of Starka’s faith, seeks to seize control of Myst for himself and thereby subjugate the female leaders.
With the world in peril Starka must find the means to prevent these things, or die trying.
Todd Newton has a great imagination and really does a good job of realizing that imagination through the story. The Ninth Avatar is a pretty traditional fantasy with a straight-forward plot, but Newton adds his own flavor and turns it toward his own ends. And by traditional, I mean more the plot and characters not elves and orcs.

From the prologue, the reader jumps into a quick-paced plot that continues throughout the rest of the book. Like George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, Newton uses p.o.v.'s as chapter headings to move the story forward and to keep the reader grounded.

I have to admit that the prose was a bit spotty at times for me; really good at points and not the best at others, and I felt like the timing and distance was a bit off, but overall The Ninth Avatar delivers for me and I was compelled to dive back into the story every chance I had. I am really looking forward to seeing Newton's progression after this debut novel.

Early on, we're introduced to the characters that I grew attached to and who were every bit three dimensional. From Starka, the reluctant heroine who's not your typical protagonist, to Cairos, the wizard who's filled with vengeance for his decimated home and people and of course many other characters who really leap off the page. Even the antagonists have p.o.v.'s and we're able to see their plottings against not only the rest of the world, but against each other as well.

There are two interesting religions and many cultures that were presented in this world , but I did feel that they could have been developed a little more, especially the relationship between Brong and Rochelle, two waring peoples whose survivors play an important role throughout the book.

Along with different cultures, there are two different schools of wizards with competing schools of thought and who even caused devastating war that the continent is still reeling from. One is sucked into the continent-spanning war, while the other attempts to remain neutral and does everything it can to ignore the problems facing the rest of the world.

These types of themes really interest me as I find myself subscribing to both wizarding philosophies at times and I wish it was more of the former and less of the latter.

Todd Newton is filled with great ideas which are apparent with each turn of the page. Like I said before, I'm really looking forward to finding out more from Newton as the rest of the series comes forth.

When Should You Read The Ninth Avatar?

The Ninth Avatar is a traditional type fantasy, but with an undead army out to decimate the entire world. It's fun, it's fast, and the characters are great. Recommended.

3 out of 5 Stars

Here's an interview with Todd Newton over at Of Blog of the Fallen. Also check out the publisher's website at trapdoorbooks.com.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher


Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

I found 9th Avatar to be a good entry into the fantasy genre. Not as deep as other books but not bad for someone dipping their toes into fantasy.

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

Well, sounds like another on to add to my wish list. :) Thanks for the review.

Brenda said...

Just added this to my list of books to read. It sounds great!

Bryce L. said...

@Tyson - I think that's a good assessment of the book and I had lots of fun with it.

@Melissa and Brenda - I hope you feel the same way as I did, it's always nice to support the small press books too. :)