Indie Review: The Savior’s Champion
If this is your first time here, please read this explanation of the philosophy and purpose of these reviews.
What it’s about
With his family on the brink of financial despair, Tobias Kaya reluctantly enters the Sovereign’s Tournament to compete—to the death—for the hand of the Savior, a.k.a. the queen of the realm. What ensues is a Hunger Games/Battle Royale-style series of challenges that have Tobias questioning his humanity…and the fact that he’s falling in love with the wrong woman. Also, there are frogs.
What rocked my socks
Hey, did you know reading is fun?: There’s nothing like an engaging page-turner to make you remember that reading can be engrossing and, well, fun. While in the midst of this book, I was constantly trying to escape from things like eating, sleeping, and human interaction so that I could get back to the story. I haven’t felt that way about a book in a LONG time.
Reasons to pay attention even while drunk: I don’t want to spoil any of the tasks Tobias has to get through, but the one involving chemistry and frogs was particularly delightful. One of the real strengths of this book is the way the contestants have to manage the trials with very little forewarning. And as a reader, even if you can guess what’s coming up, you’re still hooked because you want to see how the characters handle it. And, uh, who dies.
Ladies in the labyrinth: I was particularly delighted by the interactions between the women and the tournament participants during their time in the labyrinth. Leila’s feisty exchanges (and deadly ones) give us some great insight into her character. And honestly, every time Delphi is on the page, awesome levels rise significantly.
What didn’t rock my socks so much
A reluctant hero who is…reluctant: Clearly, Tobias is a reluctant hero. Like. Really reluctant. It takes him several chapters to enter the tournament, which is pretty frustrating, since you know from the start that he’s going to enter, either because you’re extremely genre-savvy or because you read the blurb. This means Act 1 takes far longer than it should. (Hurry up and get to killing people, buddy!)
Tobias hates his “friends”: While there’s a lot of talk about “allies” and “brothers,” it seems pretty clear that Tobias hates (or at least is annoyed by) just about everyone he encounters in the tournament. His “best friend” Milo is portrayed as someone Tobias finds deeply annoying. Ditto Flynn and most of the other participants. While it’s totally understandable that Tobias would be wary around people who might be out to kill him, having him constantly complaining, internally or externally, about his supposed allies makes him less of a likeable character.
What to leave out: I realize this is the first book in a series, but there’s a lot of important context missing. Leila’s entire plot happens off page and is never explained. The story also never delves into Brontes’s motivations—which means you finish the book without having any idea why the main villain is being villainous. Yes, I understand we’re going to get more explanation in TSS, but even just a hint at why two of the main characters are doing what they’re doing would’ve been helpful.
From a technical perspective, there were definitely times when I felt frustrated and pulled out of the story. That said, the actual act of reading it was super immersive and fun. The cast is diverse, the challenges are interesting, and I was totally here for tallying up the body count. It’s clear why this book is so popular (I mean, other than the fact that Moreci runs a charming YouTube channel and has mad marketing skillz). For folks who are into the tournament-to-the-death trope, this book will most certainly be your jam.
Get your copy of The Savior’s Champion here.
Writerly Takeaway Corner
- You have a lot to keep track of as a writer, and here’s another thing to add to the list (sorry!): What sort of experience are you trying to create for your reader? Everything you put in there–pacing, characterization, conflict–is going to have an impact on how readers feel about your story. Be sure you make conscious choices and consider their outcomes so that you can leave the reader with the best possible experience. Because I think we can all agree there’s nothing quite like getting sucked into a good story.
- And speaking of experiences, don’t forget to have fun! Remember that you’re creating this world and these characters for the love of it. When an author is enjoying what they’re doing, it’s more likely that readers will, too.
- The likeability of a character and/or a relationship is subjective, so it’s probably not too helpful for me to just tell you to write likeable characters. Instead, I’ll say: Write characters who actually show the characteristics you’re telling us they show. Does your character have a BFF? Show us how close they are, how they rely on each other, how much they genuinely like each other even if they get on each other’s nerves sometimes. Does your character have a love interest? Show us how they complement each other, how they fight for each other, how they deal with the obstacles in the way of their relationship. Basically, make sure what you’re saying about the characters matches what we’re seeing them actually say and do.
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