Friday January 25, 2013
Review by TAN SHIOW CHIN
The Paladin Prophecy
Author: Mark Frost
Publisher: Doubleday/Random House, 539 pages
WILL West is a pretty average Californian 15-year-old – he maintains a B+ average and is on the school track team – and he works hard to keep it that way. His dad’s third rule (to live by): Don’t draw attention to yourself.
For as long as he can remember, Will and his parents have never stayed in one town for more than 18 months. Ostensibly, it is because of his dad’s work as a neurobiologist, but that doesn’t explain why his parents have always urged him to restrain his abilities and stay under the radar.
And then, a day that begins perfectly normally slowly becomes increasingly weird when mysterious capped men in a black sedan start to follow Will around, and he receives a text message from his out-of-town dad, which says, “RUN, WILL”. He runs, and makes it to the safety of his track team in an astonishingly short amount of time. And fortunately for him, the mysterious men are diverted by a “Wayfarer” – a tough Aussie with a tricked-out hot rod.
Could all this be because Will has slipped up and scored off the charts in a national scholastic evaluation test? Because the result is drawing attention, from one Dr Lillian Robbins, for instance, who arrives at Will’s school to offer him a place at an exclusive boarding school in Wisconsin.
While he’s mulling things over, Will – in quick succession – encounters the mysterious capped men from the black sedan again; invisible three-footed alien animals; the Wayfarer, who saves him from the animals; and receives a desperate message from his dad, who has been taken by the mysterious capped men, telling him to “run as far and as fast as you can”.
With nowhere else to go, Will contacts Dr Robbins and accepts her offer, with the condition that the school enrols him immediately.
However, the school, called The Center for Integrated Learning, is not exactly the safe haven Will hopes for either. While he slowly makes some reliable and fast friends there, he also becomes the target of a secret school society that is somehow linked to the mysterious capped men.
Author Mark Frost never lets the action slow down, and the ending has a bit of an unexpected twist. While the concept of the story is based on science fiction with a dash of paranormal fantasy, Frost does a surprisingly good job of keeping the plot grounded in the real world. In fact, the novel reads more like an action adventure, with touches of science fiction and fantasy rather than a straight sci-fi story.
Told from Will’s point of view, the writing reads exactly like how a regular modern-day American teen would think and talk, without going overboard on the slang. It probably helps that Frost has worked extensively in film and television, including co-creating the cult television drama series Twin Peaks with David Lynch, and writing the screenplays for both the Fantastic Four movies. In fact, The Paladin Prophecy has already been optioned for the big screen and a movie is currently expected to be out in 2014.
Because we are following the story from Will’s perspective, there are a few details and phenomena that go unexplained in the book. However, it should be noted that this is the first of a planned trilogy, so I expect Frost will go more in-depth into those details in the sequels.
Another hook he uses is Will’s dad’s “List of Rules to Live By”. These 98 rules pop up throughout the book, usually to help guide and direct Will’s actions in various situations. While many of the rules are relevant enough, some just seem random, and Frost doesn’t explain what prompted dad Jordan West to come up with them.
I quite enjoyed this book; it is an easy and fairly absorbing read. Recommended for those who like young adult fiction action adventure-type stories.