Review: “Priest of Titan” series by Paul Mouchet

It’s always such a bummer when a book just isn’t for me. I feel especially bad when it’s an indie author, and particularly one who generously gifted me the book as an ARC. So off the bat I want to say that these are just my honest reactions and that I sincerely wish Mouchet and his work all the best with other readers!

Disclaimer aside, I did read all three books. I had four major issues throughout the series: plot, pacing, style, and character.

The series didn’t seem to have a clear overall plot. This stemmed, I believe, mostly from a lack of stakes–lots of events happened, some engaging, others less so, but they didn’t seem connected to each other or to broader thematic or character-based concerns. It was very clear what was happening, but not why or indeed why a reader should care.

As a result, pacing was also a struggle. The worldbuilding is (I think) fairly interesting, but information is dropped on readers in inconsistent ways, often after it’s become necessary. This was a big issue in book 2 especially.

Description is a major strength of Mouchet’s, and in moments where there was visual description of what Kit is observing, the book was quite immersive and the writing really lovely. Unfortunately, the dialogue, action, and internal reflection were not, in my opinion, written well. The dialogue is often clunky, with frequent use of unusual dialogue tags that makes it read as highly unnatural. The action sequences are choppy and usually too short. There is almost no consistent character development and Kit doesn’t get much of an internal life. The series is also badly in need of proofreading, with basic errors like mistaking “yolk” for “yoke” or “bridal” for “bridle” fairly common.

Finally, character was a real weakness of the series. The books follow one character quite closely, but I felt like I never really got to know Kit or who she is.

Book 1: This is a coming-of-age narrative. The premise of the worldbuilding is quite interesting, with an entrapped god that loyal priests hope to free one day. I wanted to hear more about that lore, though sadly the religion wasn’t as well-developed as I would have liked. The story really focused on Kit, a girl who is dropped off at a temple of this god to become a priest.

In a few scenes, it started to remind me of one of my favorite books of all time, the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce. The lighthearted, low-stakes adventure-fantasy-training montage sometimes shown through the issues mentioned above, and when I could get lost in that, I found myself quite enjoying some individual scenes.

Unfortunately, they were so episodic, and didn’t really tie into any kind of broader overarching character or theme. The troubles with writing style referenced above also made it difficult to enjoy even those sequences. This book particularly suffered from inconsistency in characterization. It seems like it ought to follow Kit’s growth as a character, but she doesn’t grow in any kind of clear way over time. Sometimes she seems sarcastic and sassy, other times she is sweet and obliging, and at the very end she is accused of being manipulative, which we’ve never seen on the page. We are told that Kit is a special girl, destined for something unique (we don’t find out what), but we don’t see this in action.

Book 2: This was the book where pacing was the biggest issue, especially the pacing at which the book delivers information to the reader. The genre seems to pivot, from fantasy coming-of-age to monster-hunting-episodic, which would be fine if there was also a shift in tone or style to accompany it. Unfortunately, there was a lot of very sudden info-dumping. For instance, we learn what Kit thinks vampires are after we’ve found out they’re actually something else, which makes it hard for the moment of her surprise to land with the reader.

There are apparently multiple steps Kit must take to become first a priest, then an acknowledged priest, but we don’t even find out that this distinction exists until after she’s cleared the first hurdle and moved on to the second. This creates a pacing issue that makes it difficult to stay engaged, as we don’t know what the stakes of anything are. A prophecy gets introduced, but not until the book is half over.

A real strength of the book is the developing rapport between Kit and Danny. I really liked Danny as a character. He injects some much-needed humor and lightness into the book, and he is dynamic enough that he makes Kit more relatable. Another is the lore that gets revealed in the book. Though the pace of these revelations is really clunky, the stories themselves are quite fascinating!

Book 3: I think the thing that troubled me most here was the inconsistency in worldbuilding. There were dwarfs and elves, but also Berrat. People eat “winterberries” but also corn and bacon. The gods are based on Greek mythology, but also invented wholesale. Obviously, disparate elements like that can work very well in a book, but with nothing being introduced thoughtfully enough, it was hard to follow because I couldn’t fully rely on context or what I already knew about some of the elements. I also have a pet peeve about things (like mithril) being cribbed directly from Tolkein. Taking inspiration is great! But it should be a thoughtful engagement with a source, not just an imitation of the standard tropes of a fantasy world because the world of this book hasn’t been built enough to stand on its own. Unfortunately, I have to say it feels like the latter here.

Introducing magic into a fictional world is a hard thing to do, because magic isn’t real. Readers cant’ import any knowledge about how it’s supposed to work, because in real life, it doesn’t (to my eternal disappointment). That’s a problem here, as the magic is very inconsistent. For instance, the very first chapter of this third book introduces the idea that spells have levels, without really explaining what that means or why we haven’t gotten that information earlier.

I did really appreciate the notes of whimsy that appeared in this volume (swordfighting rabbits!) even if it felt a bit strange to suddenly shift in tone so much.

Overall, the series read more like a tabletop RPG than a novel. The plot was made up of discretely interesting events that didn’t quite connect. The worldbuilding was interesting, but felt strangely layered on top of existing fantasy tropes. The characters didn’t have much internal reflection, only interactions with each other and with their world. This really isn’t to my taste as a reader, but it could be a great fit for fans of LitRPG.


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