Friday, July 25, 2014

HERO WORSHIP by Phoenix Emrys

Publisher:               Dreamspinner Press                    
Published:               June 9, 2014
ISBN:                     978 1 62798 726 4
Genre:                   Romance, M/M
Book Format:          E-book
Obtained via:          Publisher
Reviewed by:          Helena Stone,

Rating:                   3       

Back in 1975 Douglas “King” Fisher is a young man on a quest. He and his three friends have made it their mission to keep their high school bully free. On the last day of school, just before King will leave forever, he answers one last call for help. He doesn’t know it but saving the never seen before beautiful teenage boy from the bullies will have long lasting consequences.

In 2010 King lives a quiet and in his own eyes completely unremarkable life in the town where he grew up. The destiny he thought he was bound for when he finished school disappeared before his eyes due to an accident. Instead of moving away he stayed where he was, looking after everybody except himself and never realising what he means to those around him.

For about twenty years King has had a hero. Rex Rodman, action star from a television series, is everything King would have loved to be and more. King has dreamed about Rex; dreams that became more vivid when Rex came out while at the height of his fame. But dreams are just that, aren’t they? With King’s fifty-seventh birthday fast approaching he is about to learn a few lessons from the most unexpected of teachers.

I’m not looking forward to writing this review. This is another case of a fabulous story-idea let down – in my opinion at least – by the way it has been told.

I loved the idea of the Knights of Right we are introduced to in the prologue. A group of kids protecting everybody in their school from bullies is something I would love to see in real life. But even that early in the story the self-deprecating tone the main character ‘King’ uses to describe himself, his friends and the work they do put me off. I wanted to like him, had a feeling he really was likeable but had to read too far between the lines to get to that part of his personality. 

I hoped the tone of voice was the result of the character being a teenager at the time and that it would become more balanced as the story progressed. Unfortunately the opposite was true. If anything King became more cynical and down on himself as the story continued.

“There was a ‘King’ once. A long time ago. He’s gone. I let him go when I let him down and turned him into me.”

The more King put himself down, the less I liked him. And, while it was funny the first few times, I got a bit tired of reading the following line time and again.

“I could say it all right, but I’d be lying.”

I can’t escape the feeling that the author tried to outsmart herself here. It reads as if she intended for this to be a snarky, somewhat cynical but ultimately funny story. For me the author didn’t succeed in that quest. While there certainly were a few occasions on which I smiled and even laughed out loud I have to admit that overall King came across as a self-pitying and self-indulgent moan.

And that is a shame because this story had so much going for it.

It is great to read a story in which the main characters are in their fifties and no longer quite at their best. It would have been even better if King hadn’t sounded like a sulking teenager rather than a grown-up man.

And I really liked the idea of redefining what exactly constitutes a hero. We may look up to someone for whatever reason; it is quite possible others look up to us for reasons we can’t begin to recognise or understand. And the author did succeed in getting the message that heroes are rarely what we perceive them to be and that we can never know how we affect other people, across very well and eloquently.

“ the life of a real man, where it really counts, slugging it out on a day-to-day basis in the trenches of everyday life, that’s the mark of a real hero.”

So while this may not have been the right read for me, I hope it won’t put anyone off trying ‘Hero Worship’ for themselves. Like I said, it was the tone in which the story was told rather than the story itself that didn’t work for me. If you like your main character cynical and self-deprecating, you are in for a treat.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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