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Sharamitaro: The Milhavior Chronicles, Book 1
Jonathan M. Rudder
Infinity / Athor Productions, 302 pages

Jonathan M. Rudder
Jonathan M. Rudder graduated with a B.A. in English from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He works as a computer network technician for a leading medical staffing and therapy corporation based in St. Louis, Missouri.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rob Kane

Sharamitaro is the first of four books in Jonathan Rudder's Milhaviour Chronicles. Overall, it seems a reasonably solid start, with strong character development and a good story. However, the book can be bit of a mixed bag at times.

We are introduced to the youth Brendys. A good-natured teenager, he is son of the HorseMaster Brendyk, an equally good-natured man. Brendyk's nature and desire to help has led him to take in numerous wanderers and homeless souls over the years, providing them with a room and productive work to do at the ranch. When one day a man and his son appear, hungry and homeless, Brendyk does not hesitate to bring them in like the countless others before. But something is different this time. The boy, Williard, a mute, is afraid of almost everything. And there is something sinister behind the father's docile outer appearance. Brendys takes on the task of trying to figure out the secrets of the new help. Of all the parts of the book, this first section is where Mr. Rudder's writing shines.

The character development in this segment is well executed. It is soon established that Brendys is the main character of the story, and his character is portrayed effectively. The reader learns about Brendys through his actions and dealings with the other character. His good qualities are amply shown as he tries his best to befriend the boy and gain his confidence. The intelligence, patience, and strong morals displayed give a hint of the heroic character he will surely become. But attention is also focused upon flaws that he will inevitably need to overcome ere the conclusion of the telling.

Into this story, there is also the hint of the mystical. Strange dreams, rumours of the past, hell-spawned creatures in the night. But this all done, like the character building, in a rather subdued manner. It is, in fact, the subdued story-telling that makes the story as strong as it is.

But as always, the introduction must end eventually. Brendys departs home to briefly visit his friend across the ocean. But nature exerts its power, and a fierce storm leaves Brendys shipwrecked, stranded in a land where an evil sorcerer is waging war against the free peoples.

This is the portion of Sharamitaro where the story becomes a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, the plot is interesting, but it has also largely been told before. Namely by Dennis McKiernan in the Iron Tower trilogy and, by extension, Tolkien. There are no hobbits or warrows, but many of the plot elements remain the same. There is, for example, a great wall of darkness moving across the land covering all in darkness. Under the darkness, a vast horde of evil creatures advance destroying all nations they pass over. And there is the run through abandoned dwarven mines, now inhabited by a host of foul creatures.

Sharamitaro is far from the first book to be heavily influenced by Tolkien or other works, and it is also far from the worst. However, the reader is left with the impression that it could have been better. With some of the more obvious borrowed elements of the story, it doesn't feel like anything new was being added. The flight through the mines comes to mind. The scene is not critical for the progression of the story. And although well written, the scene lacks much of the drama, atmosphere, and power that Tolkien was able to conjure up.

The above note aside, the latter section of Sharamitaro is still a good story. When Mr. Rudder ventures away from the mold, the book becomes rather more inventive. For instance, we are introduced to a potential conflict between religious sects. A small element in this story, it looks like this will become more important. And there is also the tale of underground freedom fighters organizing an almost futile resistance from within their ruined and occupied city.

The characterization also remains strong throughout the rest of book. We can see Brendys grow, with continued development of the character traits previously seen. We can also see the inner conflict that is starting to build as his beliefs start to conflict with each other, spurred on by outer stimuli.

Overall Sharamitaro is a good book, assuming that the reader does not have a strong aversion the repetition of old tales. And all indications are. that as the story continues into the subsequent books, it will deviate from its influences and become more of Rudder's own.

Copyright © 2003 Rob Kane

Robert learned to read with a litle help from Lloyd Alexander, and he hasn't stopped reading fantasy since then. No matter how busy life gets he can always find time for a good book.

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