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The First Fear

The Empowered Ones, Book 1
Narrated by: Alister Austin
Length: 8 hrs and 52 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Summary

The Supreme rules the world. 

For centuries, the Supreme has reigned with an iron fist. The people are slaves to her whim and at the mercy of her followers who revere her as their goddess. Using a supernatural ability, known as the "Power", she is able to channel emotions and convert them into superhuman abilities. 

Some resist. Not all live their lives in servitude. A few rare people also possess the power and try to fight. These empowered ones are hunted mercilessly by the supreme and her servants, for she knows the threat they pose to her will. None has dared to challenge her outright. 

That is until now. Elian, a young boy living at the edge of the Imperium discovers he, too, possesses the power with devastating consequences for both himself and the girl he loves. On the run, they encounter a ragtag band of resistance fighters called the Liberators. Among their ranks are others with the gift and their leader Vavius, who believes that the key to overthrowing the Supreme lies in the ruins of the ravaged lands of the once mighty Kingdom of Aeranyth. Pursued and hunted for their gifts by the sinister First Fear and the Hollowed, the world's fate rests in the hands of the Empowered Ones.

©2018 Matthew Olney (P)2019 Matthew Olney

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

The First Fear: Yay or Nay?

I have just finished my listen through of The First Fear, and decided I enjoyed it enough to give a review. I'm not one for long essays, so I'll just use a Pros/Cons list instead.

Pros:

+ The narrator, Alister Austin is FANTASTIC! There are a lot of characters in this book, and through a wide array of different voices and accents he manages to give them all a distinct sound. His narration is smooth and clear, and really adds to this book.

+The idea behind the powers of the Empowered Ones (and the Gifted) are quite unique. Depending on which emotion is focused on, different abilities surface. Fear makes you run fast/jump high, anger is super-strength, as well as a wide variety of others, I thought it was quite a neat idea.

+The characters are all distinct in their dialogue and motivations, and due to a large cast size, there is no doubt you will find yourself attached to at least a few of them.

+A lot of the set pieces (an arena, infiltrating a noble's illegal party, a grand siege) are familiar and enjoyable.

+The length (just under 9 hours) isn't too long or short, and made it easier to set a goal to finish it.

Cons:

-The pacing is extremely fast, often too much for certain story beats to have the impact that they were intended. It sometimes makes character moments feel unearned, or set pieces far too brief to enjoy as much as I would have wanted.

-There are a lot of commonly used tropes here (love triangles, Chosen Ones, and evil empires to name just a few) but whether it's too much is up to the reader to decide. I was able to enjoy the story for what it was despite the tropes, but some people may be turned off by it.

Conclusion:

I would say this audiobook is definitely a 'Yay' for me, as I enjoyed my listen. I look forward to book two!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A gripping, action packed tale

The First Fear is a gripping, action packed tale sure to entertain not just Fantasy fans, but anyone who enjoys a well thought out story.

I'd heard good things about the First Fear, but I had no idea it would be a roller-coaster of a tale. The overall story is a unique spin on some tried and tested themes, which make it feel both nostalgic and intriguing at the same time.

The author's world building is spectacular, creating an Industrial-era empire and blending it beautifully with the malevolent power of the Supreme pitted against The Empowered Ones and their Gifted allies.

The characters (warts and all) are realistic and Mr. Olney does an amazing job of developing them throughout the story. The pacing is excellent too; the author gives just enough information to develop a scene without over-explaining everything. The action sequences are stylish and slick with plenty of twists and turns.

Overall, this was a fantastic story and I look forward to diving into the next book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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An entertaining take on the Sanderson vibe.

The book comes across as a more digestible take on Mistborn and The Reckoners, with seemingly a nod to Star Wars and Cook’s The Lady.
You have a few different POV’s with emerging characters, which came across well as well as some very interesting secondary characters.

I enjoyed the book, pacing made for an easy listen and I imagine the trilogy is an easy read. Much easier than a Mistborn re-read with far less whiny characters.

The twist at the end and pitched battle in particular stood out for me. The twist making me curious for the rest of the series and did what the tin would suggest.

A couple of gripes.
One is editing, as it felt adverb heavy with a few repetitions and a couple of modernisms.
The second was the narrator. A solid job, but a couple of duff pronunciations and too much emphasis on ‘u’.

Book 3.75*
Audiobook 3.5*

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Engrossing read, great story and novel mechanic

I really enjoyed this book. It is a strong story with well rounded characters. The novel approach to power/magic is an ingenious twist on what is, at times, a well trodden path. Well worth a read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Star Wars plus Mistborn equals....

This book reminded me of two of my favourite fantasy sagas! I look forward to the next book.

The setting is much like Brandon Sanderson's first Mistborn trilogy i.e. evil empire, oppressed populous, super powered ruler, as is the unusual basis of of magic. This time it is emotions rather than metal!

Some of the dialogue reminds me of Star Wars, especially in fight scenes.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan at Truly Novel Reviews
  • 29-10-19

As expected for an epic fantasy!

This story plays on the trope of the nobody turned hero, because he is especially gifted with powers that exceed everyone else's. It's well written and has some interesting concepts (such as the hollows and how they came to be). It threw me for a loop when guns / bullets were introduced. It's unique that you read a story that seems so classically sword & sorcery fantasy and then some more modern objects and devices are introduced.

The narration was also well done. I dropped the performance score by one star because the accent (for me, an American) was so thick I had to rewind a couple of times to understand the words.

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  • The Bookwyrm Speaks
  • 20-07-19

Definite must listen for fantasy fans.

This is one of those books I got an early peak at, but was so overbooked I just didn't get a chance to finish it. When the audio book released, I knew I had to give it a listen. Its a good thing I did, because this was a story worth hearing. Taking a lot of the tropes of the last 20 years, the author takes bits of them, mixes them up in a blender, and makes them his own unique thing.

PLOT SUMMARY

In a totalitarian empire, ruled for the last 300 years by the all powerful ruler, known as the Supreme, any dissent is dealt with in a draconian manner. The empire is basically a slave empire, with the vast majority of the population being slaves to the various nobles, who treat the slaves mercilessly to be able to afford the Empress's tribute. Life is cheap, and this is the society Elian was born into. Elian is the son of a serf carpenter, meaning he is free, within limitations. As a small kid, even at 15, he is picked on by the bigger kids of his village. He is often protected from the beatings by his best friend, Lizella.

After a prank as revenge against the bigger boys goes horribly wrong, Elian and Lizella end up on the run from the Supreme's enforcers when Elian develops powers in the stress dealing with the prank's aftermath, which draws the Supreme's forces after them. Now on the run, Elian and Lizella escape, only to foolishly be captured by slavers. Lizella faces life in a pleasure house, while Elian can look forward to a quick death in the gladiator pits, neither a fate they'd wish on anyone.

While on the road to the slave market, the slave train is attacked by rebels, and Lizella is freed. Escaping with the rebels, she goes with them back to their camp, only to end up on the run again after they are attacked. Elian is still captured, though, and ends up sold to a gladiator troop. He ends up training to be sword fodder, but his emerging powers, based around emotions creating different effects, means he doesn't die as expected. It turns out Elian is a rarity known as an Emergent, which means he can use more than one emotion to create magic effects. as opposed to a gifted, who can only use one emotion.

This all leads to a great confrontation down the road, as the rebels manage to take the city and the Supreme brings her forces to bear. She sends her head enforcer, the dreaded Hollow known as the First Fear, after Elian, as the Supreme's army attacks the rebel fortifications. This climactic battle leads to revelations about who and what Elian is, as well is who is behind the rebellion and the potential to defeat the Supreme.

CHARACTERS AND WORLDBUILDING

While there is very strong worldbuilding in this book, characters are it's real strength. The main characters are well written, with strengths and flaws, giving them fully formed personalities. Elian and Lizella get the most attention, being the main characters, but even the secondary characters are given fully formed personalities, with their own triumphs, flaws and motivations. The villains fit within the world they are created in, with motivations and actions that fit the narrative.

The world building is quite intense and detailed. A slave empire, it is a harrowing life for the inhabitants. The magic system , and its rarity, is quite creative. The magic being created through the use of emotion to create specific effects, with varying levels of power depending on the emotional severity, can result in some wildly creative scenes. The struggle against the oppressive system, and the mystery behind it, is also intriguing.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is one of those stories that hook you from the outset. Using tropes in a creative way isn't always easy, but the author manages it nicely. Fans of Brandon Sanderson should especially enjoy this story, as will fans of dark, gritty fantasy. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from this point.

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  • Gordon
  • 14-07-19

What a ride!!!

This is an absolutely phenomenal story; very much reminiscent of Mistborn. The author creates a rich world filled with fully fleshed-out characters and one of the creepiest villains I've seen. He builds a gripping story that will stay with you long after the book is over. This is my first time I've heard this narrator and he delivers an outstanding performance. I'm now patiently waiting on book 2.

*Full disclosure: I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to the author.

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  • trufriends
  • 10-07-19

interesting

I enjoyed listening to this story and am interested in finding out what happens next.