Defenders of the Scroll by Shiraz

8/10 An enjoyable fantasy adventure and there is much to like within its covers.

Far away in the realm of Mythos, an evil entity has broken free of its prison to darken the land. However, entrusted with her father’s magic scroll – the only hope for the realm – young Princess Dara summons six heroes from different times and places to defend her: a hardened Roman legionnaire, a swift Japanese samurai, a mighty African warrior, a fiery Amazon archer, a spirited Shaolin monk, and a guitar-playing high school student.

Now, constantly on the run from an army of Shadow Warriors, the teens must endure perilous journeys and face frightening monsters – while trying not to fight with each other – as they struggle to find the mysterious Hall of Shadows.

Defenders of the Scroll is the brainchild of Rupinder Malhotra and B. Singh Khanna. The original concept had been for a children’s animated series but the decision to write a book instead appears to have been a sound one as the young fantasy novel has collected nominations and awards at an impressive pace. The man that Malhotra and Khanna chose to put the words to their idea was Shiraz, a South-African born author with a passion for writing.

As with many books there are parts that are very strong and parts that are slightly weak.

The strengths: A story that features pirates, warriors, magic, monks, guitar-playing teenagers and princesses has a little something in it for everyone. The book’s presentation shows a great deal of effort; the illustrations are pretty good and the way in which the individual pages have been made to look like a scroll is a very nice touch indeed. Defenders of the Scroll is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure that’s intentions are admirable – it seeks to entertain and educate. The narrative is strong and the traditional good versus evil theme will find appeal amongst many fantasy fans. The well-placed twists and turns will keep younger readers gripped and Alex, the teenage boy from ‘our’ world is a character that many will relate to.  

But the best parts of all came when the summoned heroes completed their set tasks and returned to whence they came only to find everything frozen in time. For example, the Roman legionnaire found himself back in the middle of a major battle where he saw many of his company only seconds away from death but found himself unable to do anything about it - these moments were very powerful and you could almost taste the futility and the frustration.

The weaknesses: The six heroes are rather stereotypical and, although they do develop somewhat, it is not enough to make the reader truly warm to them. The book does also, at times, have the feel more of a screenplay than a novel and it and could have done with being a little shorter – a firm editing hand could have made a real difference.

Defenders of the Scroll is an enjoyable fantasy adventure and there is much to like within its covers; it is certainly worth a read and the cliff-hanger of an ending sets things up nicely for the sequel. A promising debut from Shiraz and company.

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