It has been rightfully said that one should not judge a book by its cover. When I first picked up The Almost King by Lucy Saxon, I was intrigued by the cover. On the cover page, you could see a boy gazing at a skyship flying high in the sky and by the look of it, I thought that the book would be an interesting read. But alas, the opposite happened and the book turned out to be a major let down.
The entire story takes place in a world called Tellus. The so–called imaginative world is divided into six countries and Siberene, (which reminds one of Siberia in Russia) is one of them. Our hero, Alesk Vasin, a 17–year–old teenager, lives in a village Baysar. He feels overshadowed by his siblings and wants to do something on his own. He has two dreams; he wants to join Siberene’s famous army and wishes to fly a skyship and go on an adventure trip. So, he runs away from home to join the army but after spending few days in Rensav army base, he realises that he is not cut out for handling violent and painful training sessions meant for criminals. So he decides to run away but before running away he finds a secret diary and steals it. Now a sinister army camp officer, Shulga is out to hunt him down. In a bid for freedom, he heads to the capital city of Syvana, where he takes shelter in The Brass Compass, an inn run by a very kind couple Ksenia and Bodan. They have a lovely niece Raina (No she is not our heroine, though I wanted her to be), just one year younger to our hero. In Syvana, he meets an inventor, Luka, who becomes also his mentor.
After a few days, he falls in love with Saria who turns out to be the heroine of the story (though it is unclear, why). But after a month or two, the sinister officer finds him and threatens him with dire consequences. So our hero runs away again. But this time he is not alone. He is accompanied by two brothers Zohra and Drazan. He embarks on a (boring) adventure in a skyship called Thunderbug and finds a whole new world. And since he was the captain of the ship (even though Zohra and Drazan were more experienced in that area), he becomes the King of the newly found land. They return to their native land after a week where he gets arrested by Shulga and loses his kingship to the king of Siberene in return for his freedom. And suddenly, very abruptly, the story ends. By the look of it, one might be tempted to explore the book, but as the story ends, he/she may feel that in place of the promised roller coaster ride he/she was made to settle for a simple swing. The writer has gone for an easy plot and though she has created a fantasy world, there is nothing that a kid will fancy in it, let alone a grown–up. The plot is undercooked at places and the author has added some sequences which were not actually needed or relevant to the story.
The lead characters are underdeveloped. Instead of liking the protagonist, one will find the secondary characters much more interesting and entertaining. I liked the loving and caring characters of Luka, Ksenia, Bodan and Zohra and that of Raina who was warm and respectful towards Alesk. She treated and understood him better. When Raina is introduced in the story, one might feel disappointed by the fact that she isn’t Alesk’s love interest. But later on, one realises that Alesk did not deserve her and the reason for that is simple: he is selfish and has got no guts. He always tries to run. Very rarely does one not like a protagonist. Even the romance between our hero and heroine is not convincing. Overall, the storyline is strangled and moves in the different directions without any purpose. It is an adventure promised, which never begins.