The Bane of Yoto by Joshua Viola
Review by Jasper de Joode
Some say the Arbitrators existed long before the world was born. Others believe their dark powers spun the fabric of time itself. They are mystery. But here is truth: After ages of formless existence, the Arbitrators craved physicality once more. In their search for a worthy body to inhabit, they destroyed the world Ajyin – home of the gentle, blue-fleshed Numah and the combative, carapaced Olokun. But not all was lost. General Vega and his vile Olokun warriors enslaved the remaining Numah. They relocated to Neos, Ajyin’s thriving moon. There, under Vega’s imperious rule, the Numah toiled to extract minerals for a defensive barrier called the Aegis Shield. It would protect Neos from the Arbitrator’s return, the General vowed. However, the Arbitrators’ hunger sparked a great fire – a blaze of revenge and revolution that soon found its home in the heart of Yoto, a weak and cowardly Numah. Now Yoto’s days of cowardice are over. He is transformed, a powerful and dangerous being beyond Vega’s control… And the Arbitrators’ dark presence haunts the world of Numah and Olokun once more…
The Bane of Yoto is a book that took Joshua Viola about 8 years to get published. From the few pages at the back on how The Bane of Yoto came to be, I could make out that Joshua Viola was aiming at an superhero mix with Conan the Barbarian and Star Wars thrown in. He pulled this off quite well, there was a good mix of fantasy and science-fiction.
A certain tone is set from the quote on the first page “Ajyin smoldered long after the Arbitrators’ purified energy incinerated the world…”. This together with synopsis gave a feeling that I cannot quite place yet, but it is positive to say the least.
There are three described forces: Arbitrators, Numah and Olokun. In the Bane of Yoto all three make their pass in the storyline but the focus remains on the Numah and Olokun. The story takes off in a pretty interesting way: In the advent of their destroyed world by the Arbitrators, the leader of the Olokun, General Vega, saves both the Olokun and the Numah. In the introductory chapter you get a good glimpse of both the races and their specific roles on Neos (their new home). The Olokun are portrayed as a vicious, violent warrior race. A pretty cool aspect is the integration of specific bugs in their warrior gear. The Olokun enslave the Numah and use them for their entertainment purposes, arena fights and the likes. There was a shift towards the Numah in ways of storytelling and using them, this was I think attributed by the main protagonist , Yoto, being a Numah. What Joshua Viola does great is really give the feeling that the Numah are oppressed by the Olokun. Although some Numah have a certain degree of freedom, they are still slaves and get used and their lives do not hold much value. The Numah are a more peaceful folk, and stand more to reason. The Arbitrators are obscure and remain so until the last part of the book. They are portrayed as gods and have the power to destroy whole planets. I hope that their reasoning become more clear in the two books that will follow.
From the Numah both Yoto and his brother Eon are followed throughout the storyline. What I found most appealing is the way they were characterized. They were completely the opposite of each other with Yoto being a shy, weak, being bullied type of kid and Eon as the stronger, action type of guy. Eon leads a rebellious party of Numah against the Olokun while Yoto is trying to get by just as normal as possible on a every day basis. With this rebellious party, you learn more about the Numah. They were actually, I think, quite advanced in their knowledge with weapons, engineering, etc. while the Olokun remain just violent. The violence of the Olokun is not over the top but fits right into their warrior society. From the Olokun, General Vega and his son Cadoc are mostly used but although there action speak for themselves, I would have liked to see more of the how they came to be. The Olokun are a warrior race but even they have to have a past? These “how things came to pass” are somewhat told but I’m curious on how the Numah and Olokun relationship was on there homeworld. Were the Numah also treated as slaves or did the Numah and Olokun have completely separated lives? So what happened before Ajyin got destroyed because with the rebellion of the Numah and there advanced knowledge they could have easily turned the tables before.
The environment that is present on the planet Neos is pretty diverse, from rocky caves to swamp lands. What gave a more sci-fi feeling to Neos were not only the alien races Numah and Olokun. The descriptions on how they look are cool, this takes together with the art work gave a very lively feeling to the events. But also the alien fauna: Ranthos and Burrowers, aiding and created by general Vega, explosive bugs or bugs featuring as a drugs, and the integration of inorganic and organic beings.
And then there is the knife, the Bane of Yoto. Earlier I mentioned that Joshua Viola tried to make superhero mix. But instead of using a mutagen or some such, the power come from a knife plunged in the chest. No, not your ordinary knife, but what I could make of it a knife imbued with the power of the Arbitrators. The plot actually featured a different target for the knife which was nice to read and that Yoto actually could mess up everything that was planned. Actually from this transformation the story accelerated and the ending became pretty much apparent. Yoto gains many enhancements besides his added bulk. Since the power of Yoto comes from the Arbitrators, from which we have not seen much yet, it is a aspect that can be readily used. But every superhero has a kryptonite, I have certain guesses of what Yoto’s will be.
The Bane of Yoto is a well rounded story, it is planned for a trilogy, but the first already produces a closing storyline. In terms of plot line and character development The Bane of Yoto is simple and this can be improved more in the following books. This does not take away that it is quite an enjoyable book. With a pretty strong ending, I’m curious of what the Arbitrators have in store for Yoto. Will we revisit the planet Neos? Or will Joshua provide more insights on the whole universe of the Numah. Olokun and maybe other alien races?
I would like to thank FiXT for kindly providing me with the review copy.
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