Michael E. Thies is an indie author of the science-fantasy series, The Guardian of the Core. I met him in an online writing workshop, maybe six-seven years ago. He was at high school at that time, if I recall, and he had already done what some writers hoped to accomplish. Finish writing a novel. Most of us have heard, first written novels always sucks, maybe, there were exceptions, maybe. And I’ll B-slap Mike a bit by saying he wasn’t among those excepted. But the guy had an idea, under cooking, over cooking, poaching, steaming, deep frying, and a few other writing experiments to make it as awesome he could make it be. He has a lot of passion, which is highly admirable. Now, he has a degree on Advertising, and independently published in print, which is doing quite well – I think – and now working on the sequels of his epic series.
This is my unbiased review of his debut first novel, The Trials of the Core.
To say the least, the book is ambitious. It’s got massive ideas put together that skyrockets to astronomical scale. We’re talking here about modern and futuristic technologies, with a pint of medieval pub-crawling mages, douche bag nobles and noble nobles, space exploration with spacecrafts, hovercrafts, cabbies that can jump through the space-time continuum (I might be exaggerating), ninjas, and whatnot. With that said, I’m glad it was done in a way that doesn’t inspire people to start cutting their wrists.
Much details about how everything works have been left out for readers to figure out, which isn’t to say it’s a bad thing. Sure, it got me a few “Huh” and “WTF?”, but once you get through that border, you can stand from your fetal position and embrace the sun with a cold drink, and looking back to what you’ve been through, you think, “That was one hell of a fucking ride.” I’ll let you decide if it’s in a good or bad way – personally it was good.
As for the story itself, basically, it’s a Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire meets The Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game. As I recall, Mike himself described it as, and I’m paraphrasing, fantasy set in the future. Where the supposed best and brightest youths all across their solar system gather to compete in an interplanetary Olympics to become the Guardian of the Core’s Apprentice. Why is it so important? Well, obviously, from apprenticeship they will eventually become the new Guardian, and who doesn’t want to be in that position of power, where citizens of all within the star system wet their pants upon hearing his or her name? Right, it’s about securing power. But the real definition of being a Guardian wasn’t clear. I’ve had friends take a swing at the story, and some of them claimed disappointment about the Guardian’s blurred role, others, including I, thought it was exciting as we were left with hints for guesswork.
It’s a character-driven book, where we get to explore each of the main protagonists’ psychology and internal struggles, seeing both sides of the coin. I was annoyed by some characters, I got angry at and with them, I shared a few laughs with them, joined some of their many but often dull dinner parties, spent time with them in bed, watched them through a keyhole what they did alone in their rooms, which was usually nothing and at one time, thought I was about to witness a special moment with Kenny G saxing in the corner. Later, they opened up to me, revealing fragments of their past, gaining my sympathy and care… for some of them at least. Some of them I wanted to burn in hell. Even the side characters were given the chance to steal the show, as they showed us what they’re willing to give up to secure that apprenticeship.
At this point, it’s possible that anyone will begin to speculate who will succeed the trials. I’ve made my guess and I was flat out wrong, like someone just swung a sledgehammer to my face. There’s a lot of sword swinging and spell casting for entertainment value, and a slush pile of mysteries, which are obvious setups for future story arcs.
I’ll say that Mike could have done a few alternatives for the book, such as more character growth. I suppose we’ll see that in the next book. But suffice to say, Trials of the Core did it’s job well, which was to entertain and evoke emotions. Will I continue to read future The Guardian of the Core novels and keep a lookout for this young author? Of course.
In the long haul.
I believe this is one of those things that can be expanded if done right. The world is massive, and there’s a lot of room to add several stories, whether as a standalone novel or a new series. The author has recently added short stories about some of the universe’s mythology, legends, and lore. It’s safe to say that there could be more in the future.