Book Title: The Pandora Codex – Oliver Webber, Book 1
Author: Hank Garner
Publication Date: March 31, 2018
Available on: Amazon as an eBook
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Oliver Webber is the heir to a rich legacy, one shrouded in mystery. Today is the day his father has been grooming him for his entire life where all the secrets will be shared with him, passed down from many generations ago. But the day gets off to a rough start when the apocalypse begins and Oliver is left to figure out what role he has to play in this catastrophe without any guidance. Will he be able to avert the apocalypse in time?
This is a fast-paced novel where the clues are doled out over time and the intrigue builds up with each passing chapter. What is Oliver’s family legacy and the secrets they keep? Who is the strange weasel-faced man who can generate balls of fire with his hands? What is the Pandora Codex and why is it so important? As the situation starts to intensify in the town of Weston, the answers to these questions keep the narrative moving swiftly along and maintained my interest throughout.
The more answers I got, the more I wanted to know more. The strange underground crypt houses much intelligence that is critical to Oliver’s understanding of what he is supposed to do here. The history he learns is filled with riveting detail, enhancing the feeling that centuries of history have been tracked over time leading to this one important moment. It adds a strong depth and layers of foreboding as it goes, infusing the novel with historical significance and a grander sense of destiny at work.
I liked how the history of generations past, from General Sherman ransacking Weston during the Civil War, to 740 BC to Ezra’s time period where children are sacrificed, have an important part to play and add to the richness and the apocalyptic tragedy we see in this novel. How it’s all connected to what’s going on in the present day is what surprised me most of all and when a novel can do that, it only adds to my enjoyment as I read it.
Even in a novel filled with the apocalypse, the author doesn’t skimp on the characters. Oliver is the seventh son of the seventh son and being groomed for his eventual destiny as the youngest child in the family is filled with wonderful little anecdotes of what that was like. His loving mother and father also have an important part to play, not only in how he was raised but in how it impacts his life in ways he couldn’t have foreseen.
Oliver’s journey over the course of the novel is the most compelling. He spends a lot of time trying to figure out what the hell is going on and his reactions to the powerful forces of evil gathering around him are perfectly natural. He spends a lot of time stumbling from one situation to another, which is refreshing in comparison to the “hero knows how to save the world right away” trope you find in some stories. But when it all coalesces into the finale, I came to appreciate every step of Oliver’s journey and why he stumbled the way he did.
His thirty-pound lovable dog Fudge is Oliver’s constant and loyal companion throughout this entire journey and we come to know him as we know everyone else. But in the midst of this craziness, where would Oliver be without his tough, sassy Southern girl Sunny, who his is equal in every way? Their love and background give added stakes to this tale and grounds it even when that reality grows stranger by the hour. Speaking of strange reality, I must mention O.Z., who is the most unusual yet most learned conspiracy theorist I have ever met. He also injects some humor into the story where you would think it would be hard to find some.
The town of Weston also plays a part here. In a small southern town where everybody knows everyone, the character of this area and people who live there are also well illustrated. It makes you care for their fates as the apocalypse grows ever weirder and the stakes climb for everyone in town to the point where lives are put at risk.
The villain in an end-of-the-world scenario like this one is crucial, as it helps define who our hero is and what challenges he must face. But just when you thought you figured out that one, a big giant curveball is thrown into the mix and this unpredictability kept me on my toes. There is one central moment that the entire novel is building up to. It draws all the different story threads together in such a powerful way. Then, when it pays it all off, it gave me goosebumps as I bowed to the majesty of the moment that I got goosebumps and heard a choir of angels sing a triumphant hurrah as it played out.
I’ve read many of the author’s stories before and all of them feature a superb blend of different elements. From suspense to the charm of a small town to life-or-death stakes to down-home characters to the supernatural crossing over into the real world. All of the author’s trademark elements and style are here, yet combined together wonderfully into a reality that pulled me into it so well, it all felt like it could happen in my own backyard.
This is an apocalypse with a primeval evil coming into the world with many disparate elements. The hero’s journey, the wizened guide, ancient knowledge, a conspiracy theorist, and a rising tide of darkness for the good guys to fight. This is a riveting novel from beginning to end and I look forward to reading the sequel when it becomes available.
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