Paul Stuempel and Cormac Lambe's Augee: Guardian of Hohala was published by Werner & Lawrence Publishing in November 2017.

Information about the authors:

Paul Stuempel is a native of Fort Thomas, Kentucky. His debut novel, Augee: Guardian of Hohala, is the first in the Augee series, an original saga imagined over four decades. Paul is based in Dayton, Kentucky where he lives with his wife, Rose Anne.

Cormac Lambe (PhD) is a writer, editor, and educator from Dundalk, Ireland, based in Atlanta, Georgia. His research interests are in Irish literary history. He lives with his fiancée, Amanda, and a cat named Elizabeth.

Click here to visit the official Augee website.

Information about Augee: Guardian of Hohala:

In the far-off land of Hohala, an isolated, prosperous nation is threatened by an impoverished and ruthless foreign race. Faced with extermination, the natives are forced into exile where danger and fear are ever-present. As his people struggle for survival, young Nicholas Stone uncovers an ancient secret, and a miracle is born. That miracle is Augee - Guardian of Hohala.

A REVIEW OF PAUL STUEMPEL AND CORMAC LAMBE'S AUGEE: GUARDIAN OF HOHALA

Paul Stuempel and Cormac Lambe's Augee: Guardian of Hohala is the first novel in the Augee saga. It's an engaging and a bit different kind of an epic fantasy novel about exile, survival, violence, faith and miracles, because the authors combine elements of traditional epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy, adventure fiction and young adult fantasy fiction in a successful and entertaining way.

This novel differs from other epic fantasy novels by being a story about the survival of friendly and non-violent people who come face to face with a severe threat to their existence. It's partly a coming-of-age story, because it tells of a youth who has to grow up during hostile times, and it also has an environmental theme, because the authors tell about the invaders' total neglect towards their environment and natural resources.

I was pleasantly surprised by Augee: Guardian of Hohala and found it entertaining. When I began to read it, I got the impression that it has been written out of fascination and love for traditional epic fantasy fiction, because it has many epic fantasy elements. It appealed to my taste in epic fantasy, because the authors have succeeded in writing a novel about the battle between good and evil in a satisfyingly different way.

Here's a bit of information about the story:

- This novel tells of what happens when an isolated and prosperous nation is threatened by a brutal and violent race that comes across the sea to conquer the land.

- In the beginning, Morgoratt from the island of Volcaron hatches a plan to build warships in order to conquer the distant Hohala, which was mentioned in his great-great-grandfather's parchment. The people of Volcaron begin to build the vessels and when they are finished, they set sail and head out to conquer Hohala in the name of Volcaron.

- Meanwhile, the Hohalians live their daily lives without knowing anything about the forthcoming threat, but King Benjamin has sensed something, because the Nexus is troubled. He has felt the presence of something dark and unknown penetrating their land. Young Nicholas Stone also senses that something is wrong.

- As the invasion is about to begin, the Hohalians flee from the invaders and seek shelter elsewhere. Although things look bleak and dark for the Hohalians, there's a glimmer of hope for their survival, because Nicholas finds a strange creature called Augee...

And so begins an epic tale that offers readers fascinating happenings, brutal scenes and thought-provoking moments.

The worldbuilding in this novel is good, because the authors fluently introduce the world to their readers and gradually reveal more information about it. The authors concentrate on writing about three locales: Hohala, Hohala's surroundings and the island of Volcaron.

Hohala (which means "Essence of Heaven") is a place where Hohalians worship the Nexus, a divine and unseen network of kindly gods and spirits. Hohalians nurture and cultivate the land, and they live in harmony with all the species of earth, sea and sky. They are a friendly and non-violent race. Hohala is a remote place that is naturally protected by an untamed jungle, a mountain range and a coastline.

Far beyond the tropical waters of the Great Bay of Hohala lies an island of Volcaron where freezing winds keep the climate cool and summerless. The people of Volcaron, the Volcarons, used to be seafaring people and their ships used to plunder the coastal settlements, but when the fertile island of Volcaron was discovered, the people decide to abandon their roving ways and settle there. Their gluttonous ways, however, changed the island and caused it to be a desolate place.

I was satisfied with the characterisation in this novel, because it feels engaging. I enjoyed reading about the protagonists, because the authors write about them and their feelings in a fluent way.

Here's information about the major characters:

- Nicholas Stone is a young man who feels detached from the community, because his parents are dead and he has been raised by well-intended neighbours and frieds of his parents. He has been considered to be strange by others. He is more interested in the outside world than Hohala. He has befriended a wild panther, Nightshade, by saving him from a wild boar.

- King Benjamin is Hohala's ruler. He's a kind man who doesn't believe in violence and wants his people to stay true to their faith. His daughter, Princess Caralisa, is also a kind a person and is respected by the Hohalians. Caralisa has feelings towards Nicholas.

- Morgoratt is an intelligent man filled with darkness and yearning. He is the leader of the Volcarons, but he despises his people. He has earned himself a fearful reputation and is considered to be a ruthless leader who doesn't hesitate to kill people. His desire is to restore Volcaron to its former glory and greatness. His brutality knows no bounds, because he is driven by violence.

I have to mention that Morgoratt is one of the most brutal characters ever to appear in this kind of epic fantasy fiction. His brutality and violent deeds are reminiscent of some of the characters and anti-heroes found in grimdark fantasy novels, because he uses violence as a tool to get achieve his goals.

Reading about what happens between Nicholas and Princess Caralisa is fascinating, because their relationship is explored in an interesting way due to their different opinions about certain things. Paul Stuempel and Cormac Lambe also explore well how Nichols feels about the way the Hohalians flee danger and won't defend themselves in fear of letting violence take root in their community.

I found it fascinating how blindly and firmly the Hohalians believed in the Nexus and its guidance, because they were willing to suffer any kind of conditions to protect their way of life and their non-violent ways. Even under a serious threat the Hohalians and their King trusted the Nexus. The authors subject readers into thinking about what will happen to innocent people when they face a deadly enemy.

It was interesting to read about what happens among the Volcarons and among the Hohalians, because the authors write convincingly about both sides. The authors tell of how the greedy Volcarons cause destruction and how the Hohalians try to survive despite the threat to their lives.

I also enjoyed reading about how Nicholas and Augee became friends. It was delightful and heart-warming to read about their friendship. I'm not going to mention here what kind of a creature Augee is, but I can reveal he is a gentle being, but very powerful.

This novel has a good pacing. It's great that Paul Stuempel and Cormac Lambe take their time to develop the happenings, but keep things in motion while doing so. I enjoyed reading about what was written about the characters and how they struggled with their lives, because it added depth to the story.

It's worth mentioning that the authors write about the hero of the story in a more original and entertaining way than many others. I like their way of writing about him as a person who has conflicting emotions. I also want to mention that this novel is delightfully quest-free unlike many other epic fantasy novels, because only one part of the story has quest elements. It's great that the authors have had ambition to avoid quest elements.

There's something about this novel that vaguely reminds me of the fantasy trilogy, Prophecy of the Kings, by David J. Burrows, because the authors seem to love storytelling and have written the story as well as possible. I was also slightly reminded of Ronlyn Domingue's Keeper of Tales Trilogy.

I give this novel strong four stars on the scale from one to five stars, because it's something a bit different due to the authors' successful attempt at writing an original story. I look forward to reading the sequel, Augee II: The Reawakening, because I enjoyed this novel.

Paul Stuempel and Cormac Lambe's Augee: Guardian of Hohala is an enjoyable epic fantasy novel for readers who are fascinated by good and immersive stories. Under its traditional epic fantasy look readers can find heavy and thought-provoking themes that are not normally explored in this kind of fiction.

My final words are:

This novel is good and captivating epic fantasy!

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