The Seventh Bridge by Terence Soule


Review by David Belltower

I received a copy of the Seventh Bridge by Terence Soule to review in PDF format. After doing a little searching on Amazon, I believe that this is Mr Soule’s first effort as a novelist and as a first-time author there are both areas in his writing that I appreciated and others I found wanting.

First, let me give you the premise. A young wizard named Hadrian works as a janitor employed by a school that trains students in the art of magic. He lives in the city of Karbala which appears to be a sea-merchant town and eavesdrops on the teachings of the professors during the day and studies ancient tomes at night. Across the river from Karbala is the Old City which is full of nasty things and has been abandoned for a century and a half. The two cities are connected by a series of bridges and, in particular, a bridge known as the Seventh bridge. Hadrian, with the help of a few friends, discovers that some potentially illegal smuggling may be afoot and they believe the crimes are taking place in an ancient temple in the Old City. Is it really smuggling or something far more sinister?

I have been told over the years that when reviewing something, you should start with the good, then proceed to the criticism then end with the good. I will not deter from this advice. Soule has a good knack for wordsmithing, often describing an environment or a characters with words that are not only appropriate but also beyond the norm (he occasionally falls into a pattern of repeating specific words over and over within the same paragraph). He also has done his homework when it comes to architecture, shipping and warfare. The novel also had a sense of a sleuthing mystery to it, trying to peel away the onion to discover the clues.

Unfortunately, the onion was peeled back very quickly and not only was I unable to do the peeling about what was transpiring within the old temple but I was blatantly told what was occurring. This seemed to happen consistently, never allowing me to wonder who might be involved and why. My other three criticisms of the book are as follows. First, Mr Soule loves details – which is fine except that he spends pages and pages on things that I feel have already adequately described – especially dwelling on the Old City and the buildings there but steering clear of the equally important school for magic arts. There is a scene or two within the school but the professors were thrown at me quickly without a background on each or this magical institution before they are recruited into this adventure. Second, the novel felt like it was set in a very confined space, either in Karbala, one location in the Old City or in the sewers beneath it. I would have liked to see the adventure go beyond these locations a bit more. Finally, the book seemed to be split into three parts. The first being the laborious discovery of what was occurring at the temple (without a big aha moment), the second being the endless battles with various creatures (that ended up feeling like he was going through a D&D Monster Manual) and the third seemingly taking place a good deal of time in a dream state. When the final battle occurred, it came upon me quickly and I fear I was a bit unprepared.

Now, that said, I felt that (even though it went on a bit too long) Mr Soule has a good knack for describing environments and the plot (and final bad guy) was an intriguing one. I mean, it’s tough writing a novel about a fledgling wizard from a school of magic under Harry Potter’s shadow. I would personally like to see Mr Soule take a hard edit pass at this book, fix the various punctuation problems, and tighten up his battle scenes and dream sequences and then give me another shot at it as I think he shows a lot of promise!

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