Book Review: The Exercise Of Vital Powers (Legends of the Order #1) by Ian Gregoire
The author Ian Gregoire kindly agreed to answer some of my questions! So, below is my review and following is the interview.
This fantasy novel follows the story of teenager Kayden, an apprentice of The Order. She’s snarky, she’s determined, she’s single-minded in her desire to be the best. We first meet her on an attack of a heavily guarded old fortress, where she’s reluctant to follow the designated ‘leader’, because she has a better plan.
She breaks the rules, uses magic that’s way above her grade level and strikes out on her on, much to the surprise of her peers and her superiors.
Back on campus and Kayden’s fellow apprentices don’t much like her, but that’s fine because she doesn’t care, she’s too focussed on completing her apprenticeship in record time. She’s also convinced that one of her masters, Fay Annis, is out to get her.
So, when Fay takes Kayden on a one-of-a-kind journey – just the two of them – Kayden is on her guard, waiting for the moment Fay might turn on her.
What unfolds is a story about why Kayden’s capable of magic that many of her age are not, and how she’s manipulated various people to be able to learn magic taught to higher apprentices. She’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants. But we also learn what motivates Kayden, and understand her actions better. And see how those around her are determined to redirect her course for the better.
Fay Annis’ character is also curious. She’s not what she seems. And has an intriguing past. Fay’s interest in Kayden is suspicious at first, but becomes clear as they reach their destination.
There are some intense fight scenes, some dialogue-heavy moments as well as a brilliant ‘dream/vision’ sequence with Kayden, where she experiences a kind of enlightenment. The magic system is thoroughly thought out and well detailed. Magic is called Zarantar, and there are three known grades of magic in the world – although a little known fourth also exists – and different magic uses are called things like Kiraydan (for illumination) and Makfayshulat (for levitation).
I enjoyed the writing and I’d describe the pace as moderate. The characters are well-developed and the way that their stories unfold is clever and held my attention. The world is richly-developed with hints at more epic turmoil brewing between neighbouring countries and conflicting groups. For me, the ending was feel-good, with all the ends tied up nicely. I’m keen to know what happens next to Kayden.
Definitely one for fans of more character-driven fantasy that really explores how complex backgrounds have shaped personalities and impact actions.
My rating: 4/5
Goodreads | Author website
*I received a review copy from the author
Q. Please tell us a little about yourself?
First of all, I was born in late-seventies London into an immigrant family from the so-called “Windrush Generation” who arrived in the UK in the late fifties from the Caribbean. From a young age I was always very introverted, which has made me a bit of an outsider and a loner throughout my life. You could say I’m that person who never quite fits in comfortably anywhere.
Being born into poverty really limited my options for hobbies when I was a child, and that was a significant factor in my interest in reading and writing; it didn’t cost a penny to go to the local library every weekend to loan out books. In many ways being a writer is the perfect vocation for me because it is such a solitary one.
Though I’ve known since childhood that I was meant to be an author, I wasted the best years of my life on “careers” that I had no passion for until I finally accepted I had no option but to pursue my true calling.
Q. What is your favourite book and why?
It’s impossible for me to single out just one book as being my favourite because there are a handful of candidates in a number of different genres. But in terms of the one novel that has been most influential in getting me to where I am today, it has to be “Kushiel’s Dart” by Jacqueline Carey.
I read it at a time when I hadn’t picked up a fantasy novel for several years, after having fallen out of love with the genre, so it was a departure from the science fiction and urban fantasy books I was accustomed to reading in the early and mid ‘00s.
To cut a long story short, I was absolutely blown away by “Kushiel’s Dart”. It permanently altered my perception of what fantasy literature should be, and the author became an instant favourite. Not only was my interest in reading the genre restored, so too was my interest in writing it. Had I never read this book I suspect I would be an urban fantasy author today.
(My note: I also LOVE Kushiel’s Dart! You can read my five-star review here.)
Q. What got you into writing?
Since early childhood I have had a love of storytelling. This interest was sparked primarily by fairy tales and Greek/Roman mythology, but it was reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe” as a seven year old that ultimately inspired me to start writing my own stories.
It was at the age of eleven that I came to realise that writing could be more than just a hobby for me. For an English assignment in school I had to write a story to be entered into a national short-story writing competition, and to my surprise I was one of the runners-up. I subsequently received a certificate during a school assembly, which proved to be the moment I knew I wanted to be an author when I grew up.
Q. The Exercise of Vital Powers is the first book in Legends of the Order series, described as character driven, cautionary tale inspired in part by the adage ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’. Where did the idea for the series come from?
The Exercise Of Vital Powers began life in 2007 as a fan-fiction story based on one of my favourite TV shows of the ‘90s. After re-watching the entire series on DVD, I frequently found myself wondering what my favourite character would be like a decade after the events of the final episode, and I soon came up with a story inspired by her history in the show.
Several years later, when I committed to writing the novel that eventually became The Exercise Of Vital Powers, I remembered the aforementioned fan-fic and realised it would be great as the basis for an original story. I initially intended for it to be a standalone book, and though I could see the potential for sequels, it wasn’t until after I published it that I realised I wasn’t done with my two main characters. There were more stories I wanted to tell with them, so Legends Of The Order was born.
Q. What did you most enjoy about writing The Exercise of Vital Powers?
Unfortunately, writing The Exercise Of Vital Powers was not an enjoyable experience for me. It was during a period of my life when I was having a difficult time. I was really struggling mentally, and the psychological stress of trying to keep it together meant I couldn’t enjoy the hours I spent writing.
Nonetheless, there are two memorable moments from that period that I can mention. The first was when it finally dawned on me that I would actually finish writing the book, after two decades of abandoning every other attempt at completing a full-length novel. The second was when I wrote the final sentence of the last chapter of the book.
Q. Who is your favourite character in The Exercise of Vital Powers and why?
This is a tough question because I like both my main characters a lot, for different reasons. But if I have to choose one then it has to be the protagonist, Kayden Jayta. I like how uninhibited she is in her actions: once she has set her mind to doing something she goes through with it. Also, she’s never afraid to speak her mind and say whatever she’s thinking or feeling, without sugar-coating it or worrying about how other people will react. In other words, she possesses the qualities I wish that I had.
Q. Do you have any favourite quotes from The Exercise of Vital Powers that you can share with us?
There is a scene during the first half of the book wherein the second main character, Fay Annis, has to explain what kind of person Kayden is to another character who hasn’t yet met her.
>> Fay spun around to gaze at her friend. “Ari, there is a fine line between self-assurance and arrogance. Kayden has crossed far beyond that point.” Her speech was becoming more fervent, her agitation more apparent. “She shows no humility. She is so certain of her own superiority and, by implication, the inferiority of everyone else around her. She is manipulative, willing to use and exploit other people for her own ends, with no regard for the consequences. She is confrontational, believing power should be employed to cow people—to impose her will upon them.”
Q. Can you tell us more about the second book, in the Legends of the Order series?
The second book of the series is called The Apprentice In The Master’s Shadow, and takes place two years after the events of The Exercise Of Vital Powers.
Without giving too much away, the story is about how Kayden’s apprenticeship to join the Order comes to a dramatic end. The book will explore the lengths Kayden is prepared to go to in order to earn the respect she feels she deserves; and readers will also learn more about Fay’s backstory.
Q. What writing projects are you currently working on / excited about?
At present I am focussed on making sure the final draft of my manuscript for book two of Legends Of The Order is in the best possible shape for my editor to work on in September. I’m working towards a winter release for the book (probably November).
In terms of future projects that should see the light of day next year: I have two novellas that are part of the “Legends” series, one set seven years before the events of book one, and the other set immediately after. Both are in the first draft stage, but I plan to complete them after I’ve got the release of The Apprentice In The Master’s Shadow out of the way, and once done I can move on to book three of the series.
I also have an outline for a multi-book novella series that will be a departure from my current fantasy series. It will be a New Adult science fiction series, episodic in nature like a television series, that I would pitch to future readers as a mash-up of two TV shows of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s: Roswell meets Dark Angel. The plan is to have all ten novellas written before I publish the first instalment. This will allow me to release each book of the series at short intervals.
I have a further four projects on the back-burner, but I don’t plan to write them until such time as I feel like I am a good enough wordsmith to do them justice. In other words don’t expect them to see the light of day until after Legends Of The Order is complete.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
For readers who want to know more, my Wordpress blog is probably the best place to visit at the moment. I also have an official website, as well as a presence on the main social media platforms: Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter. For the time being I don’t have the time to be as active online as I would like to be, but that should start to change in the new year.
Thank you Ian. I'm looking forward to The Apprentice In The Master’s Shadow!
>>My debut novel, a grimdark epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here.<<
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