Books with a dystopian feel are always interesting to readers because it’s fascinating to see how our world could fall into ruin, and see what people might do to try and put that world back on the right path. Abalus: In the Beginning by Stephen L. Padley offers a brand-new destructive force that’s capable of wiping out the world as we know it, and that, all by itself, makes for an interesting read.
The main character, Abalus, is a likable enough kid, but he’s not your typical heroic main character. That’s not a bad thing; it actually offers a hero that readers can instantly relate to because he’s so normal instead of being larger-than-life perfect. He has an insatiable desire to discover the mysteries of the past and an unrelenting drive to do what he can to fix the problem, but it’s apparent, almost immediately, that he’s going to need help to put his plan into action.
Luckily, Abalus finds an ally and friend in Shaun, a rebellious boy that also dislikes living under the current ruler. At first, I thought the author made a glaring mistake because Shaun seems to know a lot about how the world works, putting even the limited education of some adults to shame. However, a few plot twists down the road reveal where Shaun’s knowledge comes from.
During their quest for knowledge, Abalus and Shaun discover a few other allies, but it would ruin the experience for you to mention them here, because half the fun of the story is trying to figure out who are enemies and who are allies. When it comes to loyalty, not everything is as it appears.
A portion of the story involves flashbacks to the present day, letting us see exactly how the disaster unfolded, adding an extra element of suspense to the adventure. I actually found myself hoping the protagonist of the flashback segments would find a way to succeed, although the existence of Abalus’ world clearly indicates that failure is the only option.
In my opinion, the main strike against this book is the summary on the back cover. It doesn’t really grab a reader’s attention, and cheesy lines like, “Will Abalus survive and why does the villain in the story, the Cardinal, want only his own Holy Writings to be the basis for re-education?” were almost enough to make me pass this by because it seems so cliché and melodramatic.
Fortunately, my curiosity, combined with my love for Dystopian fiction, made me give Abalus: In the Beginning by Stephen L. Padley a try, and I’m glad I did. I’m looking forward to the next part of Abalus’ adventure.