Thursday, April 07, 2011

Book Review - Nebador - Book One – The Test by J. Z. Colby

  1. Nebador - Book One – The Test
  2. J. Z. Colby
  3. Nebador Archives (Self-Published)
  4. ISBN 978-936253-02-9
  5. 292 pages
  6. Review copy via


Nebador Book One: The Test is an entertaining young adult narrative set in a medieval kingdom where the institution of slavery is an integral part of society. Enter Ilika, a ship captain from the mysterious land of Nebador who is looking for crew members to man his vessel. It is revealed that Ilika is on a quest and one of his major tests is to recruit his own crew. What he doesn’t know is that the only eligible young men and women that fit his recruitment criteria are slaves. The story develops as the young ship captain purchases, manumits, and then educates ten teenaged slaves as possible crewmembers. “The Test” of the title manages to work on two levels. Ilika’s test is to find and train a competent crew for his ship and the test for each slave is to learn enough to be chosen as a crewmember. We get the feeling, though are never really told, that Ilika is no ordinary captain and that his ship is no ordinary craft. Indeed we are told via subtle inference that the vessel is so unusual that is it not a “ship” in the traditional sense at all. I’m sure you can see where this is going…

The first chapter of this book could have been stronger structurally, in my opinion, but the mystery of the strange ship captain was interesting enough to keep me reading the narrative. A stronger introduction to the main character might have given the story a better, less confusing, start. For instance, Ilika unnecessarily talking to animals to introduce himself was to me a bit confusing. Is this a fantasy about a young man that can talk to animals? Or is he just psychotic? No, it was just an awkward way to introduce the reader to the character. An encounter with a fellow traveler or a local farmer might have set up the opening a little better. However, once past that minor fault the book picks up in both pace and plot and I found it to be an enjoyable read.

As a reviewer of a certain age, over 50 but under dead, I feel well-qualified to comment on the plot and content of this young adult narrative which I found to be entertaining, educational, and nostalgic. Entertaining in the fact that the plot was well-written, the characters believable and real, and the premise was interesting enough to keep me reading until the end of the story. When I say that I found the book educational I mean in the sense that it contains elements of basic math and logic intended to educate the young reader (a rare occurrence these days in most young adult fiction.) More often than not we are riddled with YA stories that contain only emotional and relationship driven narratives. Nebador does indeed include relationship building but it is more in the line of binding a team together rather than focusing on romantic alliances although there are elements of romance found in the story. As for why I felt the book nostalgic I have only two words for you, Andre Norton. Yes, the prolific YA and science fiction author. I recall to this day that warm afternoon in the early 70’s when I first opened a borrowed copy of Witch World. I was completely drawn into and enthralled by that story. In fact, I wanted to go and write similar stories. Though I never did get around to writing those tales the important thing was that it made me want to and, in some ways, that experience turned me into a voracious reader. I read more because of it in my search to find books written in a similar style with parallel content. I hope that this book does the same for the young readers that come in contact with it. Hopefully, there are those who will read this in jaw-dropping wonder and begin a long life of reading Science Fiction for the pure pleasure of it. Of course, I am no longer a doe-eyed young adult looking to be blown away by a Science Fiction story (though I often am) and I remember fondly what it feels like and I believe that Nebador has the potential to cause that same type of wonderment in a new generation of young adults.

3 ½ stars out of 5

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Additional Reading:

Official Nebador site

Author page at review

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