Title: Journey of a Betrayed Hero Vol. 1 Author: Brandon Varnell Publisher: Brandon Varnell / Amazon Language: English Format: Paperback Pages: 286 Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Battle Publication Date: March 19, 2019
Journey of a Betrayed Hero is a new light novel series from independent light novelist Brandon Varnell. The story revolves around a teenage boy named Jacob who was summoned to another world when he was just 12 years old. His purpose was to defeat the Dark Lord, which he did at the young age of 13. With no way back to his own world, he felt betrayed by not only those who summoned him but the reigning monarch, Alice, whom he had deep feelings for. Jacob became a bartender as a result, renouncing his allegiance to Alice. One day, some knights showed up looking for a girl who, apparently, stole something from Alice. Jacob hadn’t seen anyone that matched her description… until later that night when she appeared in front of him.
Her name is Enyo and she claims that she has a way to get Jacob back to his own world. Jacob doesn’t want to trust her and sends her away… especially after she tells him that she’s the daughter of the Dark Lord he killed! One day, rumors of her capture by the knights plagued Jacob’s thoughts. After his sword, Durandal got into his head, Jacob was convinced that he had to go save her.
Wait… did the sword just talk?
Pay no mind to the fact that the sword can talk! Just accept it!
After rescuing Enyo from her captives, they set out on a journey to find the Gate Key which can, theoretically, open the way back to Jacob’s world. Enyo has one condition, though: To take her with him! Their journey won’t be easy as The Dark Council wants nothing more than to have Enyo back and they become the proverbial wall that stands in their way!
I won’t go further into the story because I want to avoid spoilers. I found the story to be highly interesting; however, I may be a bit biased because I am a sucker for a good fantasy story. Even though isekai has been done to death, the fact that this story establishes itself after the transportation and sets itself in present time, it makes the isekai factor seem irrelevant and what you’re left with is just a great fantasy story of swords and magic! The fact that the story establishes a way back home and an actual attainable method to reach that endpoint already make it stand out above many official isekai stories out there today. Think about all of the other series out there, some of which had anime adaptations…. The way home has often been the end point but rarely ever explored. Since it is known from the very beginning of this series, it makes it a known and attainable goal without teasing the reader every step of the way or making the reader forget that there is an endpoint.
The story is crafted in such a way where you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. You don’t have to worry about wondering what the end point is. Rather, you worry about all of the blockades put in front of our heroes to get to that endpoint. The story allows you to focus on the different elements, battles, areas traveled to, and so much more. You get to experience everything as it’s happening to our heroes and you can fully absorb yourself into those situations.
There are a few characters in the series… some of which are introduced later into the book… some early and then sprinkled throughout. Because I like to describe characters, I will be omitting Fellis and Caslain from my usual full thoughts, only because I think it would spoil parts of the story. I’ll just lead off by saying Fellis was the maid who practically raised Enyo as a child and told her stories of the hero, Jacob. While Caslain is an aspiring Paladin who wishes to, one day, stand side-by-side with Jacob as an equal. Both turned out to be great characters in their own right but you’ll need to read the entirety of the first volume to see how they end up that way!
First up, is Jacob Stone, our main character. He was summoned to this world against his will and impressively slain the Dark Lord at age 13. Alice and the White Council shunned him afterword, causing him to have trust issues. Those trust issues are on full display at the beginning of the novel as his disdain for the knights who paid him a visit in his tavern to believing in Enyo’s words when she first came to see him. Despite these trust issues, he couldn’t ignore his sense of justice. He always felt the need to be a hero and continued to subconsciously help people as he walked through the city streets. This leads him to rescue Enyo.
Slowly, over time, that trust issue remained but lessened with it came to Enyo. The fact that someone like Enyo could cause Jacob to put his trust in her shows that he hadn’t fully abandoned the ways of the hero like he claimed he had. Despite the fact that Jacob constantly says not to call him a hero, he still acts like one… perhaps because now he has something new to fight for. Jacob’s character is one that makes you think that he would be that brash hero from start to end but you really get to see his character morph throughout the volume. He never really fully loses his brashness but you do get to see his gentler, caring side but in a what that still makes him appear strong. When it comes to strong main characters, Jacob is a great example of how a hero should be.
Enyo is the daughter of the Dark Lord but that doesn’t mean she’s evil. She barely even knew her father as she was kept isolated from him except for the two times per year she got to see him. The reasons for this were later revealed but let’s just say that they play a major role in Enyo’s decision to want to leave this world and join Jacob in his. At first, you feel the same way as Jacob does about Enyo… someone who is simply using him in order to achieve her goals… and who knows? Maybe she truly was at the very start. Once you discover why you can’t really blame her for doing so. However, over time, Enyo becomes a really loveable character that you truly get to sympathize with. She’s not some bubbly airhead sidekick like you would find in most fantasy stories… she can hold her own and is smart enough to possess a strong and battle-tested will.
That doesn’t mean she has her flaws, though. She is still a girl with feelings and as her feelings for Jacob begin to increase, you find that she has a couple of moments of weakness that end up getting her into some unfavorable situations. Thankfully, being an oddity that can wield both light and dark magic, along with her skilled usage of daggers, she’s not in a position where she would ever be defenseless. In an era where more and more people are crying out for strong female lead characters, I think it’s safe to say that they will find one in Enyo. Don’t let her pink hair and young looks fool you, she’s a complete and total badass!
As great as Jacob and Enyo are, I’m sorry to say that neither get the honor of being my favorite character in the book. That honor goes to the sword Durandal.
Durandal was forged 2,700 years ago and was imbued with the ability Sentient Steel, allowing him to talk and have a mind of his own… and that mind is filled with absolute perversion! Durandal constantly eggs Jacob on in an effort to get him “get with” Enyo, constantly cracks lewd jokes that he’s heard over his centuries and previous ownership by different partners, and is always quick to blurt out something caustic and snarky. In other words, Durandal is my spirit animal!
For an inanimate object, Durandal has a TON of personality and when you have someone as sarcastic as that, it becomes a fun character to write. I can only imagine Brandon had a ton of fun writing his lines as it came through pretty clearly in the writing. Durandal is that great comedic break from serious moments. Each time he speaks a line, you know it’s going to put a smile on your face. Despite the fact that Durandal and Jacob are at odds with each other often, the two have a great bond that can only be explained as the kind of bond you share with that one friend that you have to explain to other people when they meet them… but they’re still a good person so you remain friends with them.
I truly enjoyed the first volume of Journey of a Betrayed Hero from a story and character perspective. I felt that the story itself was well-crafted and the characters were fleshed out with their own unique personalities. Each character was a joy to read and they all added something unique to the story… even smaller side characters such as Agatha. The illustrations throughout the book were absolutely amazing as well and looked like they could have been used on an official piece of anime key art!
While I do give this book a ton of praise, it does come with a few criticisms. First would be the pacing of the book. The first three chapters are separated by Interlude chapters which I felt was an absolutely amazing choice. It provided small side stories and backstory to some of the supporting or minor characters in the series and really made them feel important. The issue I ran into is that chapters three, four, and five felt exceedingly long compared to chapters one, two, and six. It created a rather big imbalance in the pacing and made the middle of the book drag just a bit. Don’t get me wrong, though… the story was great and it kept me turning the pages but I saw several points during a chapter where it could have ended and a new chapter could tell the remainder.
You may ask what the point would be to adding another chapter if you were just splitting up the same amount of content? It’s a mental thing. Being on chapter 3 for, say 50 pages, or being on chapter 3 for 25 and chapter 4 for 25 gives someone a sense of progression. Plus, longer chapters makes it harder to stop and take a break from the story. You could put a bookmark right there at the beginning of chapter 4 knowing that you made it to a progress point instead of taking a break in the middle of a chapter and worrying that you’d have to re-read it to make sense of things up until the point you stopped. Sure, it’s not a huge issue… especially since I read the entire book in one sitting… but I think it just helps with the flow to divide the story up a bit better and to have all chapters around the same length.
The other criticism is that the book could have used another pass when it comes to editing. I found quite a few incorrect word choices and/or misspellings but I do understand that it happens to us all. I, myself, have read through my books three times AND passed them through both Grammarly and Microsoft Word Spell Check and still missed stuff. Nobody can catch everything but I think a better job could have been done in this case to help minimize that as much as possible. It didn’t stop me from enjoying the story; however, but the occasional error did snap me out of my suspension of disbelief. I simply shrugged it off and continued onward, though.
All-in-all, this was still a VERY solid effort from Brandon and it has me very excited to see the conclusion of the story in the second volume! Being an independent light novelist isn’t easy… trust me… I say that from my own personal experience. However, just because someone is independent doesn’t mean they can’t tell a quality story.
Brandon told a quality story. You should take the time and read it. Period.