Books & Literature

Book Review: The Passage of Conquest, by T.D. Kuchel

FANTASY: During an evening, promising adventure aboard a galleon, 18-year-old Giselle is marooned on a tropical island. As she begins to uncover remnants of an ancient civilisation, she learns that she has travelled to a parallel world.

T.D. Kuchel has taken the brave step of self-publishing his first book, The Passage of Conquest.The concept is intriguing: a leisurely cruise on an antique galleon goes awry when a freak storm shipwrecks 18-year-old Giselle and sailor Nickolas on a mysterious tropical island. Over time, we learn that they have travelled to an alternate world where an ancient evil threatens both this world and their own. Magic, adventure, superhuman beasts and time travel all feature as the story leaps from one danger to the next.

The opening of this story was somewhat confusing in regards to setting. Characters seemed to act in a fairly traditional gendered manner in their 1950s time period, but that was then combined with much more modern language, giving more of an indication of present day. With such a specific setting, more cultural and time-specific elements, including the language of the characters, would have been much more helpful.

The book took some time to gain momentum, as secondary characters were introduced and some of the setting of the alternate world took shape. Apart from the initial shipwreck taking the characters to the alternate world, there is little action other than exploring their surrounds. The second half, however, flowed much more easily, and was filled with action as the characters were thrust from one danger to the next. The time travel element in particular was a surprising and entertaining twist.

One thing that was a little frustrating throughout the book was the lack of agency given to the main character, Giselle. She came across rather passive, with events happening to her and other people rescuing her. She didn’t often make decisions, be the one to find a solution, or be forced to be the hero. At times I almost wished Nickolas the sailor or Edmund, Giselle’s uncle and captain of the ship, were actually at the centre of this story. Both characters had relevant skills, made strong choices and had interesting histories. To be fair, Giselle does, to a point, redeem herself late in the book, where her actions are more crucial to the plot, but it would have been nice to have her making more of the choices earlier on.

Though at times the writing could use more finesse, the concept and plot elements of this story are exciting and interesting. The Order of Sekart—priests with magical abilities who guard the island and its dangers from the rest of the world—was thoroughly considered and a particularly interesting world-building element to the story.

The Passage of Conquest is the first in a series of undisclosed length. Warning: you have a cliffhanger ahead! Hopefully it won’t be too long before readers can discover the rest of this fantasy adventure.

Reviewed by Kristin Stefanoff

Distributed by: T.D. Kuchel
Released: April 2022
RRP: $32.99

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

A brave first novel by a self-published local author.

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