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The Last Heir Review by Camilla Anderson

By Shannon McDermott
SALT Christian Press
2131 W. Republic Rd. #177
Springfield, MO 65807

The Last Heir is a 382-page science fiction paperback written by a young (20-year-old) Christian woman who, homeschooled through high school, is a prolific writer. She is now an editor of SALT magazine. The book is written for the high school level reader (and up) and is "Christian" in that it is devoid of any immorality. The author's father writes in the foreword that "Christians won't have to put blinders on and ignore the garbage in order to enjoy this great story."

The story is about an empire that is reeling from the sudden death of their emperor, leaving an heir who is too young to rule. The political leaders must decide quickly what to do--let the council rule or appoint a regent? The strength of the empire is at stake, as well as much wealth and power. The plot takes you through this decision process and the ensuing fallout as hearts are tempted. Eventually a battle must be waged.

First, I must say that I am impressed by this young author and the potential of her writing gift. In the spirit of Jane Austen, she creates characters that are vivid in personality and emotion, and her dialogues are realistic and eloquent. There are many signs throughout the book of the author's writing skill. She sets the individual scenes solidly and vividly, and describes her characters so that their personalities come to life.

As for the book itself, in all honesty, I was barely able to read through it. My 15-year-old son read it also and said the same thing. My daughter (who is 10 but reads at the high school level) gave up by Chapter 3. The story was confusing, tedious, and boring. The first difficulty is the character names. Miss McDermott has endless creativity, and it seems she put a lot of it into her character names! There were so many strange names, linguistically diverse, and completely unfamiliar sounding (Gerog Kinlol, Elymas Vonran, Garin Dorjan, Dilv, Daven, Nemin Ziphernan, Colten Shevyn, Trey Uman, Adon Kereth, Zelrynn, Calanthra, Dianthe, Theseus Declan, Kavin Gyas, Gawin Gaelin, Fionn Dheval, Zidon Adesh, Mareah, Tim, Alexander Cyneric Alheenan, . . . you get the idea). Complicating matters is that the characters are called by their surnames some of the time, by their first names some of the time, and by their positions some of the time (Colonel, Chief, Captain, Council Member, Chief of Treasury, Chief Counselor, Commander-in-Chief, Premier of the Assembly, Chief of Intelligence, Chief of . . . I'm not even making a dent). I struggled to keep the characters straight! Through the first half of the book, I was still backing up constantly to figure out who was who. By the last half of the book, I had given up.

The setting of the book was vague and confusing. It took me some time to figure out if this empire was all on one planet or on many planets. The details about the boundaries and geography of the empire, the technology level, and the "sociology" of it all were lacking. I felt that these characters existed in a blank, hazy "nothingness."

Miss McDermott's strongest writing is seen in her ability to draw out a character's soul through his thoughts, history, body language, and dialogue. However, it seemed like the whole book was dialogue. Too much dialogue! While some of the dialogue was brilliant, intriguing, and insightful, simple descriptions and narrative writing would have been more "action-oriented" and helpful at times.

Given the book's claims of "suspense, intrigue, and unexpected twists and turns in the plot," I was expecting something action-oriented, attention-grabbing, edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting, or heart-wrenching. I felt none of that. Although there are many aspects of this book that are well thought out and creative, the book as a whole was off balance. It should have had half the characters, half the dialogue, half the soulfulness, and four times the adventure and action. Miss McDermott has the ability to create wonderful scenes, but the story lacked balance, flow, forward motion, and readability.

That said, I believe this young lady has great potential. If she continues writing, she has the potential to parallel some of the great writers, such as Jane Austen or C.S. Lewis. Although I cannot recommend this book for purchase, I will certainly remember this young lady. I look forward to reading her work in the future to see how her talent develops.

Product review by Camilla Anderson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2010