Sunday, August 14, 2011

REVIEW: Empath by Axel J. Moeller

EmpathEmpath by Axel J. Moeller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

Empath is a simple story of two mages falling in love and fighting bigotry.

Orphaned and deeply religious, Zonal is a Wanderer (the story's term for mage) with a strong empath talent who get craps thrown at him most of the entire plot. The story even starts off with Zonal trudging through rain, wearing a useless magical cloak, being burdened with a lame horse. Fast forward, Zonal gets tortured, magically mutilated, kidnapped, brainwashed, and magical mutilated again. Fortunately, the scenes were not graphically depicted. The author written it so the readers would feel tear-jerkingly bad for Zonal but not to the point of macabre.

Todd is a levelheaded Wanderer with a talent for teleportation. He irritates Zonal the first time they met, but they quickly fall in love. Their first time together in bed created a soulbond, which surprisingly made the story a soulmates-themed romance. I was dumbfounded that almost everyone except the couple knew they have a soulbond. It wasn't until late in the story that a high-lord Wanderer told Zonal of the divine connection.

Zonal and Todd are apart in much of the plot, with Zonal facing his inner demons and Todd on an assassination mission. Two wars are going on, a sword-and-shield one against a rogue Baron (who we later found out is a self-hating gay) and a political one against a group of religious fanatics. In a kingdom that relies heavily on magical might, the anti-magic relic the rogue Baron possessed makes the perfect defense. The Church (nonmagical believers) and the Legion (magical believers, the order of the Wanderers) have always been at odd. So when a Wanderer—Zonal is seen praying at a Church, some religious fanatics saw an opportunity to convert the Wanderer to their whatever means.

If you're looking for a cute and sweet romance, look elsewhere. The story focused on homophobia and religious intolerance. The story was black and white because it was apparent who the enemies and friends were—the bad guys were totally bad, and the good guys really good. Though the story was political in nature, it didn't felt forced because there weren't any sermon or lecture. The politic were in the actions with friends accepting the couple and the enemies killing them.

You think a war story with homophobia and religious intolerance would be violent and vicious, but the fantasy was very tamed. Even as our heroes were facing dangers, both physical and psychologically, I never felt any dread. Somehow, someway, I always felt that Zonal and Todd were going to make it.

A small gripe I have was the magical system the author set up. The author was not clear on the classification of paranormal abilities. Apparently telekinesis and empathy are mental powers, but pyrokinesis and teleportation are magic. What was the difference between magic and mental?

And there is the soul-bond which is neither magical nor mental because it is divine, a gift from the Goddess that everyone believes in. Since it's divine, this makes soul-bond potentially the greatest weapon anyone can have. The soul-bond is the crux of the story because it is what allows the good guys to win against the anti-magic relic, the brainwashing, and ultimately the wars.

Empath contains a simple message: bigotry is bad, love conquers all. I give this story 3 stars for an I-like-it.

Amazon GoodReads

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