I gave Exiled 4 stars on Goodreads, because they don’t support half-star ratings and because it was really closer to 4 than 3. Exiled is Merrick’s first novel and suffers from some of the same flaws that many first time novels do. It is a formidable first release and I enjoyed reading it. The beginning was a bit shakey for me, but half-way through, the story really comes into its own.
What I Liked:
The story was a creative, well-thought out idea. Chase Williams is a hunter, a group of magical humans destined to hunt demons. The mythology behind this is revealed through the story. When Chase fails to manifest an elemental ability on his fifteenth birthday at his coming-of-age ceremony, his arrogant father exiles him from their world. That coming-of-age ceremony is the key to this story and we see this line of plot follow through to its natural conclusion.
The hero is wonderfully flawed. With some Indie novels, you find a hero who is flawed in little, insignificant wants. Chase is cocky and closed-minded at the start of Exiled and his act-first, think-later attitude, which is not conveniently erased by the novel’s conclusion, gets him into a lot of trouble. His personality is consistent throughout the novel, making him a wonderful, mythic hero.
The supporting cast had some real gems, too. Vincent, the vampire, is one of my favorites. He is hard to predict, deliciously manipulative (anyone who has read Nick in the Olympia Heights series may have guessed by now that I find manipulative characters to be oodles of fun!), and multi-faceted. He is a viscous killer and (rarely) a compassionate heart.
Certain parts of the plot felt like a real mythology. The fight with the troll, for instance, went through Chase’s laundry list of combat tricks and became seemingly impossible, before finding a creative solution.In this way, Merrick made Chase’s adventures feel Herculean.
What I Didn’t Like:
The beginning of the novel was rough. Too many sentences with similar structure threw off the flow of the writing. The plots itself raised little questions and didn’t propose a sense of mystery until thirty to forty percent through. This is a much longer read than similar genre fiction, so that was a long time to go with awkward flow and no real mystery. I put it down a lot during the early pages because not much was compelling me to keep going.
The beginning was dragged down by too many blow-by-blow fights. Chase gets into a LOT of fights. A lot. This is total man fiction, which works for Harry Dresden, but I needed to see some of the fights abridged. After the third fight in the book, I was ready to gloss over some of the details. They weren’t important to moving the story along and they began to feel repetitive. I’m as guilty as Merrick of writing blow-by-blow fights, but when I saw so many of them in one book, I began to understand why my editor doesn’t like the play-by-play.
Once we got into the big questions (who is kidnapping half-breeds and why?), the story picked up. At 75%, though, when Chase sees a change of setting, I really wanted it to be another book. What happens at that mark changes the feel of the book entirely and that shift happens too late in the game. It could have been another book– the last 25% of the novel spread out with extra obstacles and character bonding. Tiki, a character introduced at this point, seems interesting and teases that he can take care of himself in a fight, but we never see what he does in the fight to survive.
At this point in the novel, Chase begins to call his father “Riley.” That felt weird. It’s a first person narrative and he’s calling his father by his first name? It wasn’t well established that he called his father by his given name, so the switch only served to detach the character from his important relationship to the protagonist.
Other than that, my only other problem was the very end. It was too synopsy (I made up a word). If it had been labeled as an Epilogue, that would have fixed the stylistic change. Otherwise, I would have liked it to end at the section-break before. Merrick could have included what happened in the aftermath in the start of book 2 (called Shift, if you’re curious). The last few paragraphs shift tense, too. It was weird, but it would have had a simple enough fix. If Merrick had included Chase saying something that acknowledged that he was writing or telling the story (something like “and that’s why I told you this…” only better because I just wrote that in five seconds with my coffee), it would have explained the sudden switch and made it clear why everything until then was in past tense. No such explanation accompanied this switch, making the reader wonder if it was purposeful or not. I have no problem with tense changes, so long as I have no doubt that you meant to do it.
Exiled may take you a little struggling to get started, but once you get into it, it’s a worthwhile start to a series. As I said before, it’s total man fiction. Read this book if you like fantasy, fights, monsters, and sassy girls in corsets kicking butt. Exiled by M.R. Merrick gets 3.5 stars and I intend to read Shift, the sequel.