Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Holder's Dominion

DISCLAIMER: This might have been one of the most difficult reviews to write. Not because of the book, but because I met the author before I knew much about the book. My wife and I like and respect Genese Davis. So when came time to read it, I had a moment similar to the last scene of the nerd epic, Fanboys. What if it sucked? Fortunately it did not suck. It's actually really good. Hence the sort of lengthy review to follow.

Kaylie Ames trades Tacoma, Oregon for Austin, Texas. She is running away from her family that is falling apart after the death of her father. But no matter how far she runs, she cannot escape the thoughts of a mother who is trying to erase the pain of loss and a brother who keeps disappearing. Kaylie does not know how to deal with her real world problems. When she happens across someone she knew in middle school, who in obvious distress, she finds the distraction she needs. Who is the Holder? Who is this mysterious person that can manipulate gamers to humiliate themselves in the real world so that they may gain his approval? How did her old friend, Elliot, get himself involved with such a person?

Helping Elliot escape from the Holder not only gives Kaylie a badly needed distraction, but it also introduces her to what will become her new family of gamers. Now you may be wondering how a story about gamers can interest non-gamers. Author, Genese Davis, set out to connect her gamer and non-gamer friends with a story that both groups would like. To do this she gave us a character who is introduced to the gaming world just as any other person could be. Kaylie is introduced to the world of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). In the case of this book, the game is Edannair. A world of magic and monsters similar to World of Warcraft. You learn about the game and it's rules as Kaylie learns. Davis wrote a story that does not talk down to those who are not in the know. In other words, you need not know about gaming to follow the story. To put it in nerd terms, she wrote about how a “muggle” becomes a wizard in a way us muggles (non-gamers) can understand. And I am thankful for that. Id like to think I'm pretty familiar with gaming, but I am no way a gamer.

Davis gives us a glimpse as to how seductive these online gaming communities can be. And you ease into this knowledge as the story progresses. I know at the beginning of the story I was wondering why these people are taking this so seriously. It’s just a game. But is this any different from sports fanatics whose lives are the teams they follow? Or people who obsess over fictional characters in their favorite books or TV shows? The only real difference being that in a MMORPG you become the character of a story that you help create. Imagine being able to jump into your favorite story and be an active participant. It is living a real fantasy life in a way. You can see the appeal and why people can become as addicted to a game as anything else.

Now into that world comes a person who can has a mysterious hold on others. Someone who can give you power and the admiration and respect of others not just in the game, but in the real world. The catch is performing tasks, called morphis, in the real world that can be both humiliating to the Holder’s followers, but also prey upon what they fear most. On the surface the Holder seems to be nothing more than a manipulative a-hole who can get people to participate in humiliating challenges for his own amusement. He is obviously very intelligent. But still an a-hole. And as the story progresses, I began to wonder if maybe this mysterious guy might just be some form of mad genius. It seems you can never be too sure what the Holders true motives are. You can be sure that is method is harsh. But his followers, the group called Sarkmarr, are grateful for his challenges. Especially the upper echelons, the Holders officers, who appear to be successful and highly functional members of society from just about every segment of society. It has a kind of Fight Club element to it. Especially since Sarkmarr is an all male group. Until Loxy (Kaylie's game alias/character) is admitted that is.  Sarkmarr was feeling like cult with the Holder as its messiah. The Holder’s Dominion is one of those stories that presents the world one way and then slowly turns it around on you. A lot of stories do this. But that does not make a story good or bad. When written well, that kind of change of perspective just makes a book more interesting. Gense Davis accomplished this with her story about Kaylie Ames investigating the mysterious gamer called the Holder.

I’m glad I bumped up The Holder's Dominion on my already too long book rotation. I’d also highly recommend it for anyone. Especially if you want to get into the heads of gamers a little. But mostly I’d read the Holders dominion if you are looking for an original story that is good.

You can find out more about the book, links for where you can buy the book, and information on Genese Davis at http://genesedavis.com/theholdersdominion

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