Heckova Book Review #1
Book: The Many Adventures of Peter and Fi Volume I
Author: Kelvyn Fernandes
The first volume of Peter and Fi's adventures chronicles the titular characters journey to and across the continent of Perona. The novel begins “in media res” with Peter and Fi raiding a goblin horde for the gold they need to book passage across the strait of Chorus. This opening chapter pretty clearly sets the reader's expectations for the rest of the book. Each chapter reads like an episodic installment in an adventure serial. The book lends itself to being read in chunks, which I enjoyed, but it is also quick to dismiss the events of the previous chapter without much reflection or explanation, instead pressing forward with the setup for the next chapter. Our heroes go from a goblin hollow to battling a giant frog monstrosity, to sparring with pirates, to negotiating with a bloodthirsty (literally) princess, and so on and so on. Side characters and enemies change with the scenery and the only consistent through-line are our protagonists Peter and Fi.
I found the inter-connected short story format refreshing, but it is a double-edged sword, since we do not get to know anyone but Peter and Fi particularly well, and some of the most interesting facets of the world (like the goblins that are carving a tower out of a meteorite!) are left by the wayside as the story plows on with the next chapter. It is important to keep in mind though, that author Kelvyn Fernandes is building a world for a series of books, so perhaps some of the more interesting locales will be revisited in future works.
My chief frustration with the story itself was the concealment of Peter and Fi's goals and motivations until late in the book. Peter and Fi are clearly shown to be on some sort of quest at the book's opening, but the nature of their quest and the motivations that drive them towards its fulfillment are hidden from the reader until nearly halfway through the book (in Fi's chase, we don't really understand what drives her or what she wants until the final chapter!). This made it hard for me to connect with Peter and Fi in any meaningful way, for most of the story they seemed like RPG characters just clearing the current level so that they could proceed to the next rather than real people with desires and motivations. The exact nature of Peter and Fi's relationship still remains hazy to me even after finishing the book. It is clear that they deeply care for one another, but the backstory behind their meeting and ensuing friendship is hardly touched on at all. I thought that the story could have benefited greatly from brief flashbacks to better reveal Peter and Fi's connection to one another, as well as their own personal goals and motives. Fi gets a lengthy flashback at the end of the book, but given that it is the only occurrence of this in the novel, it feels over long and jarring.
The mutation-based biological magic at the core of the world is interesting and refreshing. The limitations and costs of this magic are never explored much in detail though. Characters often comment on how “useless” Peter is as a bubble mage, but Peter then pulls often astounding feats using his abilities that seem to either succeed or fail as the plot requires. There does appear to be some level of mathematical problem solving that Peter is doing when he uses his powers, but as the reader we never are made to understand significance behind any of his “calculations”. Fi's abilities are also an enigma. She is a “chimera” and has some level of supernatural hearing as well as an ability to jump to extraordinary heights. Her powers seem to derive from her parentage rather than the mysterious force that lends Peter his own, but again the limitations of what she can do are never really explored, even though she often resolves conflict with her jumping abilities.
In summary, Peter and Fi is a fast and easy to read fantasy-action adventure that occasionally stumbles over its own pace. Its world has a lot more breadth then depth, and the exploration of its characters motivations leaves something to be desired, but it will make a great fit for any looking for a summer read with something new to offer the fantasy genre.