The Ring of Life, Book One: The Assembly by Jim Ross
On the planet Gaia, fate is gathering a band of unusual misfits for something greater than them all. Fittingly titled The Assembly, Book One of Jim Ross’s The Ring of Life series opens up in a familiar high fantasy fashion. Within the city of Hardig, the wise Raylene knows the value of patience as she waits for fate to play its hand. Living as a simple shopkeeper, she watches over the large but gentle healer Walf, the dutiful but displaced Elite Guard Eldin, the mysterious amnesiac Arianna, and her rescuer, the talented but noble thief Silvre. Joining them is Raylene’s own daughter, the small but feisty Fylene, whose latent potential may be more than she can handle. When dark influences start shrouding the Guard compounds of Hardig, Eldin’s old comrades act out and change the law to suit themselves. It is up to the five new acquaintances to put aside their mistrust and save one of their own. What they soon find out is controlling their powers is no simple task, and someone out there is making sure of it.
The story introduces all five unsuspecting protagonists in chapters that switch point-of-view without being too jarring. The book is divided into parts, so that while the time frame moves consistently, each character is at different points in their lives. The reader gets to know them as likable individuals as their friendships emerge out of trials, and often trial and error. Although it is set in a fantasy world with new races, this Gaia does not diverge much from a medieval Europe landscape; fans can take this for better or worse depending on their preference of high fantasy. The strength of the novel lies in its distinct cast of characters with good intentions that don’t always see eye-to-eye. While the plot is eventful, the page length does feel drawn-out for a first installment that only scratches the surface of a much longer quest. Some dialogue usurps the action and the narrative hurts from a lack of initiative. Still, once you feel drawn to each character, it’s only normal to be impatient with their development. Ross delivers weapons, magical artifacts, and a taste of magic and destiny within the pages. The unspoken reveal of the villain’s true motivations is sure to keep more books coming.
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