Erich's Plea is the first in a fantasy series that takes place in a whole new realm of Ms. Alley's imaginings with all manner of creatures and is the first (that I've read) that has a Minotaur as one of the main characters. I'm so excited by this character alone that I could sit and read the remaining books just based solely on this character's existence.
Ms. Alley introduces an interesting concept with a main element of her story being the differentiation between "magic" and "witchcraft". With the former a skill that is taught, trained and used with the blessing of a particular deity and the latter being something that is more innate and can work independently of the gods (be they "good" or bad" gods). I am definitely interested to see how these differences will be used in the future novels.
I'm definitely a comma kind of gal and I might even go so far as to say that I LOVE commas. One thing that I noticed was a distinct shortage of commas throughout the story and this was somewhat distracting to me. At several points, I needed to read back over the sentence more than once to figure out what the character was actually saying.
Ms. Alley does a great job in developing the characters and showing the prejudices between those who practice magic and those who do not. I liked that this is not just a human trait, but that everyone and everything seemed to have this sort of distrust of one another. (Well, I don't like it when people don't trust one another because they're different, but I could relate to the distrust based on nothing more than fear of the unknown.)
Slade, the main character, is very believable as a former prince turned Druid. He has his doubts and his moments of weakness, but he is a strong leader and should prove to be a formidable foe to The Dark One and all who would wish to do his father's kingdom ill will.
Though, he is not the main character, the Minotaur named Tares, is the most intriguing. As I stated before, I have not read any other book, other than a certain story by a certain author who is the certainly one of the most well-known horror authors who lives in Maine and who shall remain nameless, that has ever featured a Minotaur. That alone is unique and wonderful. Tares is also a warrior priest, a healer and honorable even to the point of fault.
The story itself is very easy to follow and read. I felt that there could be some more in-depth descriptions regarding the various areas of The Kingdoms, but I assume that with time, the rest of the series will give us more detail regarding those areas. Ms. Alley easily incorporates multiple pantheons of gods that the reader will have no trouble keeping straight.
The story seems to have conflicting timelines. The main group of characters' adventures and movements seem to encompass a single day; while a secondary set of characters' (seemingly) concurrent adventures occur over a much longer period of time. It doesn't muddle the story; but, rather, it's more like an odd quirk. But, given the quick pace of the main character's escape and exploits, the story definitely moved along rather quickly and the timeline differences are barely noticeable.
Overall Rating: 4
Overall, the story is wonderful and the reader can easily and quickly become quite involved with the characters. It is evident that Ms. Alley put a lot of thought into the story, the realm and the characters. One of the aspects I really liked the apparent ease of the story; it does have a strong plot line and many different characters, but I feel like this will be easy to follow through to the end of the series.
I would recommend Erich's Plea to anyone who enjoys fantasy, though if your preferences lie in the darker realms, this may not be the book for you. I'd also suggest this to anyone as a "beginner" fantasy novel as the different creatures are mainly ones that are commonly recognized from mythology.