The Eye of Verishten, by K. E. Barron – Review

Nazi Germany meets Kingsglaive, meets Harry Potter… sort of…

The book’s description reads:

“To fight means to kill; to kill is mercy.”
For thousands of years, Golem Mages ruled the volcanic mountain ranges of Ingleheim.  When Herrscher Heinrich declared himself Fuhrer, he moved to destroy all other Golem Mages until he was the sole person capable of bending golems to his will.  The connection between golems and the people of Ingleheim was broken.
Twenty years later, the resting place of the Golem of Death, an Alpha golem with incredible destructive power, has been located.  A passionate Golem Expert named Katja has been tasked, along with her research team, to assist the Fuhrer in using the Alpha to end the rebellion threatening to overthrow his Regime.  Secretly, Katja is determined to keep the Alpha out of the Fuhrer’s murderous hands and has no choice but to team up with a nameless and faceless soldier, trained in the deadly discipline of Steinkamp, a word synonymous with death.

So pretty vague description but definitely promises lots of intrigue.  The last time I cared about golems was when I was about 8 years old and Monster Hunter was the coolest thing on Fox Kids, so in that respect I started reading this book expecting to not like it all that much.

The first chapter reminded me a lot of the first 15 minutes of the movie Inglorious Bastards.  Scary regime guy comes to a farm house looking for Jews, in this case Golem Mages, and of course he finds them and tragedy ensues.  Throughout this book it’s very Nazi-esk, even the titles in the book are German, such as Kanzler, Fraulein, and Fuhrer.

The author winds a very complex plot of a Nazi Regime, a mounting rebellion against it, and a third party outside attacker named Nas Gavarr together very well.  The central characters are of course, the student and Golem expert Katja, who reminded me of Hermione from Harry Potter, and a Steinkamp whose Magitech and ninja type abilities really reminded me of Final Fantasy 15: Kingsglaive.  Supporting characters are a really annoying student name Klemens, who has feelings for Katja, a rebel named Rudiger who has quite a complicated role that is ironed out very nicely throughout, the Col Landa character, named Wolfram, and the attempted comic relief character named Jeth.  There are a few others, but these are the main ones.

Very quickly we discover that Katja is the Fuhrer’s daughter, and for some reason she does not want to help him stay in power, even though that is what she has been tasked to do.  Though we learn her reasons for this as the book goes on, I wish there had been a stronger reason, a more definite “I personally won’t help him because x”.  Even though he murdered hundreds of innocents, there was nothing that he personally did to her to illicit her disloyalty which I felt is something necessary for her to turn against her father.  Being raised by a murderer in reality would probably have desensitized her to how horrible of a person he was, and to snap her out of it and really come to terms with it, I feel, would have required that he do something drastic to her.  Of course, she does have a skin-crawling experience that her father turned a blind eye to, but his ignorance of the matter is still not sufficient in my opinion to make her turn against him entirely.

There are several magical elements in the book, spirit magic – a sort of mind manipulation magic; essence magic – in which a mage can bend elements to her will such as wind, fire, earth etc; golem magic – in which an individual with the “Eye of Verishten” can control golems; and Magitech – a type of gear that Steinkamps, the Nazi ninjas, use to do whatever they want, climb walls, freeze things, turn elements of one thing into another, etc.  When it comes to these magical encounters being described the author details every movement and instant in the book which at first was a little annoying but I got used to it.  I think partly why I wasn’t into it was simply because all the magic or abnormal activities described in the book was already familiar to me from countless movies that I’ve seen, so the level of detail the author put into it was really unnecessary for me to get the picture.  But for others not so astute in movie watching, perhaps they could appreciate it a bit more.

That being said, the many types of magic the author combined in this book, though all reminiscent of things I’ve seen before in movies, were different enough and well woven into the plot of the story that it stood on its own.  The similarities clearly inspired from many other stories still came together to form a unique, visually stimulating and intriguing story line that kept me guessing.  There were several mysteries and questions that came up which kept the pages turning.  The magical elements were a nice compliment to the overall storyline and wasn’t added just to pander to a specific audience, it was actually a part of the story, and it was nice to read how well it blended.

The golems are a weird plot twist.  Of course the whole story centers around them.  There are small ones, bigger ones, and Alphas.  Alphas have minds of their own and are mostly myth throughout the book, but the smaller ones are more like mindless giants than anything: easily controlled, very robotic, and sorely mistreated by the bad guys and the good guys alike in the book.  There were several instances where a poor golem was obliterated or otherwise maimed and the characters did not seem to care one bit about it.  It was rather heartless, especially when we learn more about the golems towards the end and how special they truly are.  I didn’t really like this maltreatment.  It was almost like kicking defenseless puppies, but perhaps that’s just my assessment of these creatures.  Perhaps it was the author’s way of helping the reader understand the depth of evil that has been allowed to dominate the story’s world.

Of course, there’s also romance in the story, and when it’s finally time for the sex scene I am happy to admit that it was very well done.  The most challenging aspect of romance scenes, from my own experience writing them and reading them, is finding what descriptive words to use that won’t turn a thrilling love scene into a cheesy word porno.  The worst thing that could happen in a romantic scene is stumbling across a word or phrase that kills the buzz, in this book’s case “nether regions”.  What the hell.  Other than these two little words which the author used to describe her vagina, the scenes were brilliant and realistic and there was a great connection between the characters that you could really feel and that many experienced romance writers fall short of.

There were several grammatical errors in the book, nothing major, a few missing “of”s and “the”s and several misplaced commas, nothing which detracted from the story telling or intrigue.  Except there was one part of the book where horses magically appeared that threw me off.  The characters got rid of their horse to cross an icy stream and make it to a farmhouse whose inhabitants only have a mule.  The author even mentions that the mule won’t suffice for transportation, yet somehow the next day when they leave the farmhouse they have horses again.  An oversight and headscratcher, but it’s small.

The last 100 pages really picks up pace and it was challenging to put it down.  A few things happen which is expected in the book, but it’s refreshing rather than annoying.

I thought the Fuhrer deserved a more inglorious fate, after all, he did murder hundreds of innocents.  Yet the author allowed him to redeem himself and play a part in the hoped for ending which could not have been possible without him.  I had trouble with this.  This character is a model of Hitler, and the author somewhat excuses his behavior at the end and even encourages a sympathetic stance.  I didn’t like this.  I wanted this character to get what he deserved and I don’t think he did.  But that’s for every reader to determine for him or herself.

All in all, I think this book was a great read.  A complex story with magic, mystery, romance, war, and deception.  The author put a lot of layers into this story which are executed well and I definitely recommend it.  You can order this book from multiple venders at the link below.

The Eye of Verishten – K. E. Barron