Novelette Review: Caila: Evil Unbound by Bobby Fisher

© Back to Front Publishing, 2017.

At the moment I’m a bit farther behind in my ARCs than I would like to be, so I sorted them by publishing dates. For the most part, my reading order is based on upcoming publishing dates with those that are already published falling in between. As a result, Bobby Fisher’s Caila: Evil Unbound has made it to the top of my list because of its publish date of this past Tuesday (or March 28, depending on the source).

Part of a collection of stories set in the fictional location of Silverbrook City, Caila: Evil Unbound is a short but fun romp that explores the importance of patience. Caila is a young mage that serves as an apprentice to the esteemed Zarlam. Like most young individuals, she is impatient to learn the weightier sides of magic (which I guess could be likened to job skills since magic doesn’t exist in our world). When her mentor leaves on a brief trip, she chooses to disobey his wishes and before you know it, all Hell has broken loose – literally! Soon Caila finds herself in a fight against time, where failure could spell the end of for Silverbrook City.

Initially, the copy I received of this book was unedited, so I won’t be taking into account grammatical or mechanical errors – I received the right ARC earlier this morning. Because I had already completed reading this novelette, I chose to forego my thoughts on editing rather than re-read the book. As a result, my review is focused largely around the story itself.

Given that Caila: Evil Unbound is a novelette, there isn’t much time spent on character history. As a reader, you are made vaguely aware of the fact that Caila was a slave whose freedom was purchased by the great mage Zarlam. The setting, beyond a tower in Silverbrook City and a few other locales, is fairly small. Because this novelette is one of ten in a collection, I could be missing out on details from the first story so beyond that, I cannot really express my thoughts on this town.

Caila: Evil Unbound reads more like a children’s bed time story, complete with vital morals for navigating daily life. Whether or not this was intentional, it makes for a quick and easy read. There are some continuity issues, such as how quickly time seems to pass, how often Caila excels at magic that should be beyond her level, and what drives the antagonist of this tale. It’s also unclear at to whether the feline familiar belongs to Caila or Zarlam.

My main gripe, overall, is its system of magic. In this world, the term “mage” is used loosely to describe users of magic as a whole. There is no true distinguishment between nature, holy, unholy, or arcane magic. As a gamer, writer, and avid reader of the fantasy genre, this bothers me because various schools of magic often have differing elements that are sometimes contradictory. Other than this, I feel that the story could easily have been expanded to encompass an entire novel with a lot more detail.

Despite my issues with this book, I did find it to be a fun and refreshing read. While I would like to see it expanded into something more full-length, it fit rather perfectly into my busy schedule. I would like to thank the author, Bobby Fisher, for providing me with a free copy for the purpose of review.

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