Friday, February 9, 2018

Book Review: 'The Quest of the Thirteen' by John DeFilippis

New Jersey author Dr. John DeFilippis earned a BS from Rutgers College, his Masters from School of Theology at Seton Hall University, became a Catholic priest and then left the priesthood for a career in education, earning his PhD in educational leadership from Seton Hall University and became a Director in the Division of Academic Affairs at New Jersey City University. Following the economic recession he turned to writing – and his debut novel is THE QUEST OF THE THIRTEEN.

The author uses the concept of a Prologue well – the opportunity to offer background for the coming story as well as to introduce the overall feeling of his writing: ‘Life in the Kingdom of Mavinor had long been lived by the precepts of a set of holy documents known as The Scrolls. The Scrolls provided a set of rules and principles setting forth how the people of Mavinor should live their lives and had been written a long time in the past by men believed to be inspired by a deity known as The Author. In these latter times, the people of Mavinor have begun to turn away from the precepts contained in The Scrolls. When they were attacked by the army of the neighboring kingdom of Xamnon, every copy of The Scrolls was destroyed. The content lived on in the minds only of those who had taken pains to learn it. This knowledge was passed down from one generation to the next, but over time, fewer and fewer remembered. The effort to rewrite them continues, but the task is incomplete in the time of the reign of King Onestus… a time when the king finds that he needs their guidance more than ever.’

John’s prose is often near poetry: ‘The sun rose slowly over the mountains in the east, its rays of light trickling down onto the surface of the sea directly south of Mavinor. They crawled across the sand of the shoreline and angled up the walls of Mavinor’s majestic palace, sending light glittering along the mica-chipped surface of the stone. From a distance, the city appeared to rise from the sand and shadows like a mirage, shimmering in the heat of the new day.’

The synopsis offers the story’s outline: ‘Life in the Kingdom of Mavinor was always lived according to "The Scrolls," a set of holy documents written by men but believed to be inspired by a deity known as "The Author." When the people of Mavinor were attacked by the army of a neighboring kingdom (Xamnon), every copy of The Scrolls was destroyed in the war. Despite countless hours of labor, the task of reproducing them remained far from complete, and their society slowly but surely began to unravel. King Onestus, childless and very ill, sees his kingdom crumbling before his very eyes but feels helpless to reverse the trend. In his darkest hour, he receives a sign...a breakthrough in The Scrolls achieved by the scribes. Believing it to be authentic, Onestus announces that he will assemble a group of thirteen men to undertake a prophesied quest to return a sacred medallion to the kingdom. The quest will ultimately decide his successor, the one whom The Author has chosen to rule Mavinor and lead it back to prosperity. "The Quest of the Thirteen" is the story of how a select group of very different men learn to work together: experienced warriors, a scholar, a rich man, a fisherman, young men aspiring to make something of themselves...all thrown together against nearly impossible odds. They cross rugged terrain, battle mythical creatures, and experience death-defying adventures as their world expands further and further beyond the boundaries they once knew. Despite countless external threats, in the end it is the internal conflict they must master in order to achieve their goal and save Mavinor.’

Fine reading for evening escapes from the world as we live it. And that is refreshing to find in a solid novel. Grady Harp, May 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.