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The Narrowing Path (The Narrowing Path Series Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 264 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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|Age Level: 12 - 18|
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Top Customer Reviews
The problem with this book comes from the basic conceit of the book: every six years come the Infernum, a period when the surface of the planet gets so hot that it is only possible to survive in underground caverns; anyone left on the surface is condemned to die.
My problem with this book—which I'll explain in a comment so as not to spoil things completely—is that I simply don't understand how the society described in this book could possibly have come about. In other words, to enjoy this book, you'll definitely need to suspend disbelief.
While one of the guardians is ready to add the baby to the pile of dead bodies littering the room, he's stopped by the other two and taken into one of the families to be raised. Named after the leader of his family that let down the entire tribe, Bowe grows into a young man ready for to join The Path with the other boys his tender age of twelve.
Once every six years, the young boys must undertake The Path, a rite of passage just before the Inferman forces everyone underground to escape the killing passage of their planet too near their sun. It's every boy for himself during the fifty days of The Path with only six allowed to survive and join one of the three remaining great families.
The theme of this book resembles The Hunger Games, which echos Lord of the Flies, with the theme of young boys set against each other to survive with only Bowe questioning the legitimacy of the game itself. Bowe starts out resigning himself to die on The Path because he's not a great fighter, and he doesn't possess great strength, but he is clever and has a great heart. It's said that children who lose a parent have a 30% greater chance at success, so it stands to reason that Bowe might have more than his share of help considering that he's lost every relative in his family.
This is the story of a boy growing into a man at a very young age because of circumstances out of his control. Instead of wilting under the pressure and succumbing, Bowe changes the game and in doing so, changes himself. Bowe makes friends along the way, and many more enemies, yet his heart always helps him to make the right choices as he scrambles to build his own family in the fifty days he has left.
There's violence in the story, but it wouldn't stop me from giving it to a young reader since the lead character questions the violence, especially when it's done so gratuitously. Bowe tries to give meaning to all the death around him, taking responsibility for it, making this a complex novel, not some violent video game of war and mayhem.
There's some light romance in the novel, tastefully executed at times, and maybe a bit harsh at others, but it's all in keeping with the world that Bowe lives in. Actually I wasn't sure if the world of Arcandis is from the past or the future, but it doesn't really matter to the story. The author does a good job of explaining his world and bringing it to life for the reader.
This is an intense book with real-life issues couched in a fantasy world. The Narrowing Path is the first of the series and it feels like it ended well, completing all of the story lines that it started, yet it left me wanting to read the next book of the series when it comes out. I loved the characters, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they develop in the next installment.
This book was reviewed for awesometrilogies.com
But happily, there’s far more to this novel than something that just feels like it’s trying to ride the coattails of a popular franchise. The Narrowing Path follows the story of Bowe, last of the Bellanger family, at an age where he can begin on the Green Path and force his way to salvation by eliminating competitors. This isn’t just some brutal scheme to keep people in line or control the population. Bowe is fighting to become an ascor, one of society’s elite, and earn his place in the Refuge so that he can survive the approaching heat of the Infernam. If he doesn’t, then the only option is death. But Bowe isn’t happy with the Path before him, and he seeks to change it, subvert it, and forge a new Path for himself and those close to him.
Normoyle’s writing is pretty good, and he can paint a clear word-picture of what’s going on. The characters he writes are fairly distinct, though the increasing cast of characters toward the end sometimes made it tricky to keep track of who’s doing what and why. Once or twice characters were introduced who really added nothing to the story, leaving me with another name to keep track of and nothing more. Perhaps they become more important later on in the series, I’m not sure, but at least here, they don’t do much besides have their name known and be part of what Bowe is trying to accomplish.
The society set up in Arcandis is an interesting one. It’s highly stratified, with ascor being the elite of society and escay being the bottom ranks. Escay can rise through the ranks by becoming marshals (your basic law enforcers), and then getting raised to ascor for loyal service, but it’s rare. Ascor look down on escay, seeing themselves as far above the concerns of the rabble. It’s not an uncommon society to play with in novels like this, really, but what I found most interesting about it was the way society was shaped by the Infernam, which is the period of intense heat that comes every six years.
However, it’s not perfect, and there are some discrepancies that don’t quite add up for me. It’s Ascor who typically end up with guaranteed or near-guaranteed places within the Refuge, but a Green’s rise to ascor is, well, along a narrow path. Very few of Bowe’s peers typically become ascor and get to survive. The rest get killed. The majority of escay die by just not being able to afford Refuge. But the population sizes don’t really reflect that. Yes, ascor men typically have multiple wives and there’s probably a whole lot of breeding going on, but the ascor should very quickly outnumber the escay, and most escay would likely be ones in direct service to ascor (who could thus get into the Refuge more easily) and any children under 6, who haven’t experienced the Infernam yet. You’re likely end up with no escay not being in service to ascor, and their families having been in service for generations. And that doesn’t seem to really be the case as presented by the book. Not unless the people we see in The Narrowing Path represent about half the entire population of either group.
So while the issue of the Infernam is definitely one that is shown to shape society at large, there are a lot of holes in the story when it comes to practicalities.
I’m a bit on the fence about gender presentation in this book, I admit. On one hand, the story is told from the perspective of a teenage boy in a tough situation, in a society where gender roles are pretty rigidly enforced, so it’s not like I expected Bowe’s group to have a whole load of women in it. But from what I recall, there were a total of 4 women with names in this entire novel: 1 who killed herself, 1 who did nothing but glare from a distance, 1 who helped Bowe and whom Bowe had a thing for but felt horrible about it because of class differences, and 1 whose biggest role was to regret that she was too ugly to get a husband and so would probably not get into the Refuge. That’s it. It’s not exactly overflowing with positive tropes; even Iyra, arguably the most interesting and involved female character, was primarily there to further Bowe’s goals and be a romantic interest. That’s not good.
I do, however, have to give Normoyle some points for inverting the “being thin is the only way to be beautiful” stereotype for women. Here, girls who are well fed and have some curves to them are considered more attractive than ones who are thinner. Makes sense, considering the ascor’s abundance, and I did like to see that aspect being dealt with.
Another sticking point, and one that felt prevalent throughout The Narrowing Path was, for me, the fact that Bowe does not act at all like the 13 year old that he is. If he was 16 or 17, I might believe it. His patterns of speech, his behaviour, his ability to see and manipulate complex patterns, the way people follow him and his ideals, none of it comes off like a person who only relatively recently hit a double-digit age. It’s difficult to see people a few years older take him as seriously as they did (especially in a cut-throat competition), let alone the adults who so easily bowed to his logic and grasp of politics. It just wasn’t something I could believe. Not without Bowe having shown ridiculous amounts of promise early on, which clearly wasn’t the case since everybody, including Bowe himself, expected to die on the first day. He comes across as far older than he actually is, and the only way for me to make it seem less incongruent was to mentally picture him as being in his late teens rather than his very early teens.
So in the end, The Narrowing Path was a decent beginning to a series that’s definitely more YA than adult, though it does have some darker themes running through it and it doesn’t shy away from blood and violence and despair. It has its strengths, and a lot of the flaws that I mentioned are ones that I don’t notice so much while reading as I notice them in retrospect, when examining the novel specifically for review and critique; it’s easy to fall into the story and ignore the little bits that don’t get addressed or don’t make sense because Normoyle’s writing is, as I said earlier, pretty good. But that doesn’t mean the problems aren’t still there. I can recommend this to people who are fans of YA dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, because it is a fun read and it is still good; for the genre and the intended audience, I’d say it’s on par with a lot of other offerings out there, and so is probably worth taking a look at if you have the chance.
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