The Buried Symbol by JeffreyL. Kohanek

Honestly, life would be easier if I could just give rainbows and unicorns to every book review and never have to have a conscience about the poor author who will have to fend off an attack on their ‘baby’. But then I wouldn’t have an honest review so I would leading some people to disappointment. So I will lay it out: I found the writing here to be problematic, the plot full of obvious holes, and the characters one-dimensional.

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Story: Brock wants more out of life – he wants a rune of the chosen to mark him as special. So he finds someone to give him a fake tattoo rune and then travels to a school of religion in order to better his life. Along the way, he takes his friend, who is also runeless.

Yes, the above is an oversimplification. But that’s how I felt when reading the story – it felt so much like a middle grade book or something dumbed down for a young audience. Motivations, world building, setting – it’s all distilled to a very shallow level and then written that way. I honestly thought it was middle grade until the main character got aroused by every pretty girl he saw along the way and sometimes fell into bed with them. I guess buxom barmaids is the medieval fanboy answer to green alien slave girls for sci fi nerds. At some point, it felt very Marty Stu.

The logic holes were the big problem – nothing was really thought out. E.g., in a society where everything is controlled by those with runes, why is it so easy to get a fake rune? And why does no one wonder when someone with a bandage over the forehead *right where a rune would be* is walking around? Why do the guys who do the illegal operation just walk our hero in to the guy doing it without any precautions or secrecy? Then let him loose in society when one word from him would lead the authorities right back to the guys doing it and their death? Heck, they don’t even put him on a boat immediately afterwards and instead let him walk around with a *big old bandage on his forehead!*. How can I take this society seriously if even the author doesn’t?

Despite what the book says about this being set in an academy, it takes 40% in before we even see the academy. Cue pointless travels and commentary on discrimination against the unchosen in various villages along the way (no, really? People discriminate in medieval societies, too??). Then add in ‘mysterious dream’ that foretells our main character is a unique magical snowflake – but then not include any reason or worldbuilding why. It just feels so lazy to create a unique snowflake this way.

The final insults, though were the characters. Of course, our main character is down on his luck so must resort to stealing to survive. But hey, he only steals from the evil and bad characters in society, so he’s a good guy, right? Seriously, we don’t need Disney princesses types as main characters in a book that is meant for adults. They can be nuanced and possess good and bad traits.

Those were the most egregious issues for me. But the underlying problem was a very simplistic and straightforward style of writing that made our main character seem like an 11 year old on a grand adventure rather than an older teen (arousals from bar maids aside). I kept expecting little birds to comb his hair in the morning as they sang cheerful songs about his new ‘strange’ powers that have suddenly manifested. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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