That feeling you get from exploring a good story. A bookish podcast discussing and reviewing books and films as I journey through my ever growing TBR backlog and watchlist.

A Girl From Nowhere by James Maxwell

A Girl From Nowhere (The Firewall Trilogy #1) is the first of a new fantasy trilogy from author James Maxwell.

A Girl From Nowhere
Title: A Girl From Nowhere
Page Count: 445
Published: 05/01/2020
Categories: ,
Warriors, wastelands, a little magic, and an epic quest to reach a fabled city. All the ingredients are here for a fun fantasy tale, but will it deliver? Book one of James Maxwell's Firewall Trilogy gives us a fast paced fantasy romp that edges into an outlaw/western feel at times but be aware, plenty of fantasy tropes await!

This version, the Kindle edition, was published May of 2020 by 47North, which is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Imprint of Amazon Publishing.

The fantasy genre was the first story genre that I truly fell in love with as a young reader. It started with The Hobbit, which moved swiftly to the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, and from there into the amazing worlds of Shannara from Terry Brooks, The Wheel of Time from Robert Jordan, the worlds of R.A. Salvatore, David Eddings, and so many more.

When I saw this book pop up last year on my Amazon First Reads selections it was a no brainer to grab it and check it out.

Then, like so many books on my shelves and Kindle, it found it’s way onto the TBR pile and started to collect dust as it was forgotten.

So when I decided to make 2022 my year to FINALLY read through my entire TBR back catalog(or as much of it as I can get through at least) I saw this one and decided it was a great place to jump in as I began my journey.

I won’t say too much about the story because I really don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but as I cracked into the first few chapters of this book it became super evident that the author wasn’t wasting ANY time in pushing this story forward.

We meet our main character and within the first chapter or so his life is turned completely upside down and he is thrust into a world that seems intent on trying to kill him at every possible turn.

Taimin, our main character, is a strange mix of deeply flawed and supremely overpowered at the same time. While he’s constantly facing death as he struggles to survive his harsh world that includes not only a wasteland of a landscape, complete with 2 scorching suns, but tons of nasty creatures and people looking to kill and steal everything they can, it also feels like he is destined to keep moving on and as such the threat of danger seems somewhat half-hearted.

Then we meet his traveling partners, including the mysterious girl Selena who has the sort of magical ability of a Mystic, which includes the ability to essentially see great distances and eventually to be able to leave ones body and see that which lay many miles away.

Taimin and Selena become the focus of the story, along with their quest to find the mythical city that is supposed to be a haven for all.

What I found so interesting about this book is the mood and feel of the story as I read.

First it felt like a post-apocalyptic wastelands type story, something straight out of the video game worlds of Fallout for example. Then it morphs slightly and starts to feel almost like a gritty and dark western mixed with post-apocalyptic fantasy. Then we start meeting other races of creatures and the whole thing takes a very sci-fi/fantasy feel with a primitive edge until ultimately we end up with a story that morphs into a familiar cadence of the gladiator stories seen on film.

I still can’t quite decide if this annoys me because of the constant tonal shifts, or if it’s actually kind of fun.

But I think I fall more on the “If you can step back and not get too seriously critical of the story mechanics, it’s actually kind of fun” side of things.

Though I could see how this might really annoy some readers, as always… your mileage may vary.

From a character standpoint, the book is fairly heavy handed in it’s underlying message tackling the absurdity of war and hate. I really can’t say too much here without getting into potential spoiler territory, but if you read this book I’m sure you’ll notice immediately what I am talking about.

In general, non spoilery terms, the book wants to hammer home the idea that we shouldn’t hate or want to kill or otherwise rule over people just because they are different than us. We can accomplish so much more if we work together towards a common goal.

It’s a bit simplistic, I know, but I really don’t want to spoil anything about the story for you. But trust me, you’ll know it when you read it as it’s not subtle at all.

Through it all though, my FAVORITE character is that of Griff. A creature that seems to be sort of like a hippo that is basically a wyvern(dragon) that hasn’t morphed into it’s final supreme form yet.

Griff becomes Taimin’s loyal partner through the entire book and for a non speaking creature, actually has a perfect little story arc. Even though it’s a story arc that is telegraphed and easily spotted from a mile away, it’s still one of the moments in the book that had me mentally pumping my fist cheering for him!

The Bottom Line

Look, when push comes to shove, this book takes a LOT of very familiar fantasy tropes and attempts to roll them all into it’s own unique story.

Overall, I’d say it mostly succeeds.

Mostly.

The thing is, the whole time I read this book, I couldn’t help feeling like I was reading the story script from a mediocre fantasy/adventure style RPG video game.

Not that that means it’s terrible, just that it left me with a feeling that was… well… kind of “meh” at best.

While I enjoy the journey we see our main characters go on, there was ultimately nothing about their stories that stood out as being SUPER unique. The writing was fast paced and well done. Just enough description to make you feel the danger in the land and the world our characters traversed, but not so much where you felt like it was a fully fleshed out, living, breathing world that had been around forever.

It’s not EPIC fantasy such as what you’d see from The Wheel of Time, Shannara, or even Game of Thrones/ A Song of Ice and Fire. Those fantasy worlds are truly next level deep, complete with centuries of history to back up the stories happening in the now.

Granted, A Girl From Nowhere IS the first in a trilogy, so the world may well be expanded and my opinion could change if I decide to continue to the journey someday.

But given this review is ONLY of this first book in the series, I have to base my review off of only that.

As such, I give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

It’s not a bad book at all, I actually really enjoyed the ride while I was on it. But as soon as it was over I also had no desire to jump on the next train and tackle the next book in the series.

At least not yet.

Maybe someday.

The biggest thing about this book is that, while the story is fun and the characters are well done, they don’t feel terribly original.

Like I said, there are moments in this book where the characters seem feel VERY familiar, especially so later in the book when it starts to feel like a re-telling of Spartacus or The Gladiator.

To me, I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun and fast romp through a new fantasy world without having to make a big commitment to a HUGE fantasy series such as Shannara or The Wheel of Time.

Bottom line, it was enjoyable while I was reading it, but there wasn’t much that REALLY hung around in my mind after it was done.

Enjoyable just not a 5 star fantasy novel.

Though I admit, as most fans of fantasy would also have to admit, it’s hard not to compare any new fantasy I read to the feelings my favorites have given me over the years, and it’s hard to topple your first loves from the top of that list.

At the end of the day this story seems tailor made to become a streaming series that could be a lot of fun to dive into. I’d even enjoy seeing this translated over to a Witcher 3 style video game, the action/adventure open world RPG style that is driven by a solid main story would be pretty perfect for A Girl From Nowhere by James Maxwell.

Give this one a read for yourself and let me know what you think!

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