Article first published as Book Review: Catalyst: The Passage of Hellsfire by Marc Johnson on Blogcritics.
Born in the darkness, and named by a stranger, Hellsfire lives a life of poverty yet full of love. At fourteen Hellsfire knows he is different. The fire burns in him strongly. Inherent in his makeup somehow, filled with strength, he has a fire of his own, and something he cannot explain. Control at his age is difficult, and anger is never far from the surface. After an especially vicious fight with some of the local bullies, his fire suddenly breaks free. Only now does he understand what he has been feeling. As fear clears the fight and his foes run away, he is tired and ready to be on his own. As he escapes, he sees a young woman running for her life. Unable to do anything but offer assistance he finds himself drawing on his power once more, only to save her.
With her help and expertise with a sword, he helps her to dispatch her abductors but Krystal Cambridge of Alexandria has questions. He does not understand himself and is not able to answer. Finding she is a princess, Hellsfire is in amazement. Fascinated by her beauty and bravery, he is in awe. Finally found by her honor guard, she says her good byes, but not before pressing a purse into his hands for his deeds.
Returning home and telling his tale to his mother, she is concerned. Yet she seems to understand something he does not. This is when she first tells him of the ‘angel.’ This being is the one that visited at his birth and chose his name. She also let him know of her agreement to send him to this ‘angel’ for training when he showed a sign. Unaware of how that sign would manifest itself, she is sure this is the time. He must make his way to the White Mountain, a place of danger and power, to find his mentor and to become the man he is meant to be.
Fighting the elements and using his power in whatever way he could to help him reach his goal, he finally finds the one who had the answers. Stradus is not angel however, he is a Wizard and he has a dragon. A dangerous dragon named Cynder. Hellsfire was to live here in this mountain and become an apprentice. The years seem to melt away and yet when Hellsfire begins to have dreams about death and destruction, with dreams about Princess Krystal and Alexandria he understands it is his time to leave. Knowing he is not yet ready, and clearly not a Wizard it is still without much reluctance that he finds himself on his way to find the answer to his dreams.
It is only now as he begins his journey does he begin to understand. There are forces beyond his control that are leading him. Hellsfire is not ready to be on his own, yet does he have a choice? Can he find the answers and keep Alexandria from the chaos of his dreams? Can he save Krystal?
In Catalyst by Marc Johnson, Johnson has put together a story of good and evil with all the embellishments that make it exciting. His characters are a wonderful foil to the side they with which they are aligned. The darkness draws the trolls and ogres, the dark and dangerous demons of the dark tide. The Wizard of the darkness, Premier, is an exceptional take on sorcery, of magic turned into darkness. The character exemplifies the fall into madness that often seems to follow the darkness.
Hellsfire is a fun and witty young man. His bravado often overrides his common sense, and yet he seems able to pull back from the very edge each time he is close to death and danger. He is full of doubts and fears and yet he has a strong belief in right and wrong. He is half in love with a woman he can never have, and yet he will lay down his life to keep her safe.
Krystal too is an amazing character. Full of life and light, and strength to runs through her soul, one that holds her steady during the destruction of her home, she never gives up. She is a vision of courage and loveliness, and a beacon for what light is all about.
I would recommend this story for the young adult as well as the young at heart. Written in the manor of many of the stories of power, it is full of dwarves and elves, as well as the ugly and unassailable things that go bump in the night. It is a fun tale that holds your interest and will keep you awake well into the night.
This book was received as a free download from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.