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“…a few chapters in and I was hooked. Beautifully written and with such a strong main character it’s difficult not to enjoy. From magic and war to beasts and men this book had everything.”

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The Heroes Fall – When War Calls (Review)

Sci-Fi, fantasy, war in a fantastical tale of sorcery and magic … Jonathan Nash finds a work of great promise from debut writer Zy Rykoa.

Getting a novel, particularly a debut effort, on to the shelves of bookstores is a notoriously difficult task. A story that a writer can research and labour over for months, perhaps years, won’t necessarily find a publisher willing to take the financial risk of presenting that work to an audience.

J. K. Rowling, for instance, was rejected by 12 publishers before finding one willing to take the gamble on her tale of the brave, lightning-bolt scarred little boy she named Harry Potter.

Gold Coast local Zy Rykoa is walking a similar road and, after diligently scribbling away for the best part of six years, his debut novel has received a small print run through a local publishing house.

The Heroes Fall – When War Calls, is a sci-fi-fantasy/war epic – a fantastical tale of sorcerers and magic, huge armies locked in global combat, terrifying monsters and peaceful villagers, weaved around the struggles of a young hero and in which, as with all good tales, nothing and no one is quite what it seems.

The first in a planned series, it is set 1000 years into the future – a future in which the continents have shifted due to some forgotten catastrophe – and the planet is engulfed in World War IV with technologically-advanced armies of the World Protection Alliance battling the nations of the United Resistance.

During their seemingly unstoppable advance the Alliance wipes out the idyllic village of Jaden Daiyus, a 16 year-old boy cursed by powerful and crippling dreams.

Escaping the slaughter, Jaden searches out the Daijuar, a secretive people gifted with extraordinary and seemingly magical powers, in the hope they will aid him in his search for revenge and a cure for his illness.

The Daijuar, however, see something in him that others do not – that his ‘illness’ may actually be the symptom of something much more powerful and dangerous.

This is all good, enjoyable stuff and in Jaden, Rykoa has constructed as good an adolescent hero figure as you’ll find anywhere, one dealing not only with a crippling illness, but also those teenage nasties of first love and jealousy with a dose of betrayal thrown in.

But there’s plenty more going on here than just battles, magic and teen troubles. For those who are inclined to look, it’s as much a commentary on our world today and where it might be heading, as it is a creative flight of fantasy.

War, technology, religion, our relationship with planet Earth – all are weaved into the tale.

“I was thinking there could well come a time when otherwise well-meaning and good people run out of resources and start attacking their neighbours,” says Rykoa. “That is what the World Protection Alliance is doing.
“It’s how I believe the world could go. We’re reaching 7 billion people on the planet. I can’t see that ending well.”
The story has been a labour of love for Rykoa. “I have one foot in reality and one in imagination,” he says. “I decided to take a job that gave me the freedom to be creative and I write lots of notes while I am there. I’ve got hundreds of notebooks with thousands of ideas I’ve had over the years.”

His imagination has served him well for The Heroes Fall – When War Calls is packed with exotic-sounding places and people, moving in a world full of wild and creative imagery. For a first-timer with no formal training, Rykoa has done an excellent job – his characters and events are, for the most part, both well-conceived and well-written.

The World Protection Alliance, especially, is peopled with the backstabbing political animals that always make excellent bad guys, with one character in particular being a terrifically sly and treacherous figure with a wonderfully crafted hidden agenda.

Rykoa is cagey about where the story goes after The Heroes Fall – When War Calls’ action-packed and cryptic finale.

Science-fiction/fantasy stories have a long history and, as unabashed fans of the genre would tell you, any new entry into their world is welcome.

The Heroes Fall should be welcomed with open arms.

It may have the feel of a first novel in parts – there are places with so much detail that to absorb it fully a reader may need to cover the ground a couple of times – but that’s not so uncommon with stories in which fantastical ideas come to life and the reader is expected to lock in step with the imagination of the author.
It’s a terrific effort and a work of great promise from a debut writer with some real talent and feel for the genre. Any book that ends with the reader anxious to get their hands on the next installment has got to be a winner.