The Exercise Of Vital Powers Paperback – 30 Jun 2017
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The Exercise of Vital Powers is a book that describes events of two meaningful days. The story focuses on Zarantar (magic system) apprentice – Kayden Jayta. She’s special. But not in a usual way. For Kayden failure is not an option. She is manipulative, willing to use and exploit other people for her own ends, with no regard for the consequences. She is confrontational, believing power should be employed to cow people―to impose her will upon them. She treats most people in a condescending way approaching them as mentally challenged simpletons. She has no sense of authority – in order to reach a goal she’s ready to beat a teacher senseless and steal his memories of the event. As you may guess she’s not the most popular person on the campus. It would be safe to say she’s most hated one. At one stage of the story she’s described as follows:
“You must not have been paying attention; I smile all the time.”
“No, you don’t. You smirk. A withering smirk to let the recipients know they are less significant than the dirt beneath your boot.”
Angsty and arrogant teenagers aren’t that rare, however, when they have the power to bring kingdoms to their knees, they may stress out their teachers a bit. Kayden may become a huge asset to The Order – organization that keeps peace in The Nine Kingdoms. She may also become a harbinger of death and destruction as the history of the lore teaches us. Of course, Kayden doesn’t fully realize her full potential. She has other priorities - her resolute determination to join the ranks of The Order is born of a secret that puts her priorities at odds with the precepts of the organization, setting her inexorably on a collision course with the most powerful institution in The Nine Kingdoms.
The books focuses on Kayden choosing her path. Some other conflicts are mentioned, some subplots are sketched but The Exercise of Vital Powers is a book about Kayden. There’s no bigger agenda, there’s no political intrigue. Only Kayden and her choices.
I love dislikable characters. Sherlock Holmes, agent Pendergast, Repairman Jack. I love characters who have darkness in them (Royce Melborne, Faran). I love rebels and outcast however at times, it was really difficult for me to like Kayden. For such an intelligent person her deduction and reading of others were sometimes surprisingly ineffective. But it’s not even a criticism. I just warn you Kayden is at times unlikable and irritating.
Overall, I really liked the book. While it was unpolished in places it was really difficult to put it down. The story sucked me literally since the beginning. And by beginning, I mean page number 1. It wasn’t necessary to go through several chapters to get into the world. In the first chapter we learn a lot about Kayden and her school. The next chapters and story development kept me entertained and engaged in the plot until I reached approximately 78 % of the book. At this point the writing became a bit clumsier and less to the point.
A lot happened but it lacked finesse in execution. We reach climax at around 85 % of the book and some changes are a bit fetched. Also, the last part of the book is focused on the dialogue between characters. Through this dialogue, we learn more about the world, magic system and other things which isn't bad in itself. The thing is the tone of the book changes significantly and becomes unbelievable even in the light of all the described events. I’m not saying it wouldn’t finally happen. Probably it would but gradually and in few months time. The ending lacks any tension and it tells too much instead of showing things in more subtle ways.
Overall, TEOVP, being a debut work, is a good book that every fan of character-driven fantasy should try to read. I believe that a ruthless editor could help to make it an excellent book. Some things need improvement. My personal belief is that the ending should be more concise. Having said that, I encourage you to try the book as it manages to do something that’s not very common in a fantasy world. It really grabs your attention from the first page and keeps you invested for few hundred pages.