Saturday 11 June 2011

Review: Catalyst: The Passage of Hellsfire - Marc Johnson

Genre: Fantasy, YA
Pages: 197, ebook
Published: March 2011
Review by Lis

For centuries, the kingdom of Alexandria has protected Northern Shala from the monstrous creatures lurking in the Wastelands. Now, a dark force threatens that fragile peace.

Far from home, Alexandria's princess is abducted. When a young villager named Hellsfire stumbles upon her and her captors, he rushes in to rescue her, alone and unarmed. His fear and fury unleash an uncontrollable magical force that grants him the power to save the princess-and change the world. Hellsfire has never craved nor dreamed of power. But such magic as he now possesses has not been seen in Northern Shala for a thousand years, since the devastation of the War of the Wizards and the creation of the Wastelands. Now Hellsfire must leave all he's ever known, and make a dangerous journey to learn to master this wild, ferocious power-power he knows he is not ready to wield. More difficult still, he needs to master his emotions. If he can't, the power will consume him, Alexandria will fall, and darkness will eclipse the land, destroying everyone he loves. In the dead of cold, the spark shall burn.


Okay. Well. Sometimes you have these books you read that leave you feeling “hmmmm.” You scratched your head a few times. You go on a walk and ponder the book and when you get back browse through it again. But you’re still left thinking “hmmmmm.” Then you leave it for a while and hope you something comes you. So that’s what I did. I read this book, but after a few days I still didn’t really know what to make of it. Let me clarify though. It is hardly a bad book, but it didn’t excite nor impress me either. Let’s see if I can tell you why.

This story is about Hellsfire, a cocky young man full of attitude and bravado. He was named by a stranger and he always knew he was different. He has a fire burning inside of him. Everything comes to a highpoint in a fight with some bullies. His fire is released and the bullies are understandably frightened.

Puzzled over this new development he sees a young woman, the princess Krystal Cambridge of Alexandria, running from her abductors. Of course, being a good hero, he helps her with the use of his fire and she helps out too with expert swordsmanship.

Upon arriving home, his mother sees this as the sign she’s been waiting for – a sign a stranger told her about – and he is sent to live with this ‘angel’ as his mother calls him. There’s no angel. Just a wizard and a dragon. And that is just what Hellsfire is. A wizard. No surprise there.

There’s an interlude then of a few years where Hellsfire trains. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like he matures. After the years he still seems this immature, cocky boy. Granted he still is a teen, but he’s not what you expect in a hero. There is more coming after he trains and a big adventure looms. The question is, is Hellsfire ready for it?

This book read like a cross between Legend of the Seeker and Harry Potter, only without the engaging wizards. It has all the ingredients of a good fantasy story, but with a poor execution. None of the characters are really likable or engaging. The whole time reading this story I felt like there was something missing. The oomph that would set it apart from all the other fantasy stories out there.

Of all the characters in this book, I liked Krystal best. She seems to possess a certain strength that makes you admire her. Plus, she’s good with a sword. You gotta admire that.

The writing in this book is not bad, but it doesn’t add to the story. Like I said in the beginning of this book, this story just made me go “hmmmm.” Not a good or a bad “hmmmm.” As a result I can’t really give it a shining review, but it’s also not bad. It might be just what you’re looking for if you like YA stories with heroes who have a big destiny and a lot to learn.


  1. I think I'll pass on this one-I just have a lot of trouble with fantasy books in general.

  2. Not sure if I'm going to like this. Too bad about these characters. ;(

  3. Hmmm, good sword skills are really not enough to tempt me nowadays into a book AND I am past my Harry Potter infatuation. Thanks for an insightful review!

  4. I hate it when books are like that - I'd almost rather one I hated than one that was hmmm.

  5. Thank you Lis for the review :)

  6. @Bucky
    I love fantasy, love it to pieces, but yes not for everyone in the end

    :( Can't really help ya since I do not know what happens


    Lol, I can't say that sword skills ever was the reason I read a book ;)

    Well at least you finish the hmmm ones, can't finish books I hate

  7. I have had books that affect me that way. I understand. Too bad it didn't wow you. On to the next! :)

  8. Nice review by Lis, but I'm not sure this is my kind of book.

  9. @Melissa
    Aye that is the spirit :)

    She is good :)

  10. Thanks for the comments everyone! :-) I felt bad that I didn't like it as much, but you have those books!

  11. Lis
    Marc asked me to thank you for the review even if you did not love it :)

  12. With a character called Hellsfire, the story should leave you with something more than "hmmm"!

  13. @Steph
    Lol, wickedly cool name anyway

  14. me means I'll pass.

  15. @Staci
    We can't love all books

  16. Not sure this one is for me Lis.

  17. @Aurian
    We all got different tastes :)

  18. Okay, hnmmm, I'm not sure about this one. It sounds interesting but I'm not sure. Thank you for the review. :)

  19. I'll pass but I appreciate your attempt at getting your thoughts together. Books that leave feeling meh are quite hard to review!

  20. @Jenny
    Don't I know it, they are sure the hardest

  21. I can sympathize with you - there have been many books which have made me go "hmmm". :D So I guess this book is something I will not be reading.

  22. Misha
    Some books are just hmmm books :/



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