Fantasy / sci-fi book review: The Rogue Retrieval


Throw a traditional pseudo-medieval fantasy into a pot along with Stargate and season with a dash of Avatar, and you have some idea of what is in store in The Rogue Retrieval.

Attracted by the dramatic concept of a Las Vegas performing illusionist come magician entering a fantasy world where he would need to be convincing alongside those who do magic for real, The Rogue Retrieval was an impulse buy for me. I was also charmed by the book’s opening where Quinn, the aforementioned magician, on the cusp of hitting the big time in Vegas, is hauled off on this crazy mission to another world through a portal on a remote Pacific island.

Richard Holt, a research scientist who knows more about the fantasy world of Alisia than anyone, has gone AWOL in this world and Case Global, the corporation who sent him there want him back.

If you are a regular fantasy reader the world of Alisia doesn’t bring anything new as a fantasy world that stands out, the twist is the people of Earth reconstructing medieval weapons with modern technology and otherwise hiding modern technology as they enter this world.

The highlights of the story are always when the protagonist, Quinn, has to use his stage magic to get himself or the team out of whatever scrape they have gotten into in Alissia.  A skilled sleight of hand expert in the team also creates scope for humour – I smiled a few times at Quinn’s antics.

There is a major plot twist about halfway through the story that I did see coming, but it was fitting and the right thing to do with this story and this world. The plot twist does take the wind out of the sails of the plot a bit, as the goal for the heroes becomes get home again.  Quinn does take an extended excursion somewhere special where he gets to explore his magic in ways he would never be able to do back on Earth.

It was fun visiting Alissia, in particular through Quinn’s eyes and my hope for future books in this series would be stronger and more drama filled plots with clearer and more meaningful plot points, twists and turns. As a regular fantasy reader, I also have a taste for writing that immerses me in the setting and plot. By this I mean – show, don’t tell. The writing style is heavy on telling what is going on rather than showing the reader. As Anton Chekhov put it “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Sometimes little details about the culture and behaviour of the Alissian’s is told that the characters in the scene would not know as we have not seen them see it, and are not essential to the plot anyway. For example; why tell the reader an Alissian’s snuff box is as private as a wallet or purse? By all means show it as a way of adding flavour and realism to the setting. Otherwise, we don’t need to know. The telling not showing issue also, for me, robs battle scenes of some of their impact, and there are some good battle scenes.

Quinn’s antics, the hint of conspiracy not yet fully visible and the position Quinn finds himself in by the end of the book do make me curious to read future installments, but The Rogue Retrieval doesn’t make the 5th star grade for my tastes.

Well done to Dan Koblot for bringing something just a bit different to the fantasy genre, although it is more accurate to call it fantasy sci-fi.


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