The Life Siphon is the first book of a duology. It tells the story of Tatsu, a reclusive woodsman who is reluctantly drawn into a conflict with a neighboring kingdom. To save the day, he must stop a magical energy that siphons the life force from every living thing it encounters.
Overall, the story flows well. With the book’s length – 363 pages – and a tendency by the author to repeat some thoughts for emphasis, I wasn’t necessarily expecting that. But it was a quick read that easily held my attention, attesting to the author’s skill. There is also plenty of action, which obviously helps with the pace. A few action scenes seem a bit well-worn in the fantasy genre, but those are well done. And there are enough twists in the plot to keep you wondering.
Other than Tatsu, the characters come and go throughout the story, making them feel a bit under-developed…and often a bit mysterious. There is, however, enough detail in their portrayals to flesh out a supporting cast. Tatsu, on the other hand, is well developed as the reluctant hero. He is (for the most part) happy in his isolated life in the woods. But when he’s implicated in a crime against his homeland, the scene is set for him to be forced into service for the crown.
Apart from the action, a great deal of the book is spent exploring the angst of the reluctant hero. And for me, this is where the book became a bit muddled. Sometimes I could not reconcile how Tatsu was acting with what he was feeling (according to our third person perspective or the nonverbal cues). Or I wasn’t sure what in the story had elicited his emotional response or his change in feelings. Toward the end, for example, Tatsu becomes overwhelmed with, let’s say, ‘family issues’ to avoid a spoiler. Yet, in the midst of this, he agrees with the statement that ‘blood doesn’t dictate who you are.’ Admittedly, recounting the doubts and misgivings of a reluctant hero is a way to add tension to a fantasy, but I couldn’t quite make sense of some of Tatsu’s reactions and emotional swings.