Scriber, by Ben S. Dobson
* * * * * (5 stars)
I have a soft spot for books about disgraced scholars and lost or forbidden knowledge, so Scriber was right up my alley. Scriber is the story of historian Dennon Lark who, several years after a terrible accident in the course of his search for the lost knowledge of Kingsland, is living in obscurity in self-imposed exile and only wants to be left alone. All that changes when Bryndine Errynson and her band of female warriors (considered sacriligious in Kingsland) come charging into his life with a band of mysterious Burner rebels hot (ha!) on their heels. Dennon is caught up in events he wants nothing to do with, but, unfortunately for him, he learns he holds the key to saving the kingdom from the Burners and to restoring the knowledge that was banished and destroyed centuries ago.
I really liked Dennon. I have a preference for adult characters who have settled into their lives and then have those lives disrupted (as opposed to young, coming-of-age characters). He’s a thorough curmudgeon who uses his crustiness to hide his intense guilt over the lives that were lost and the priceless treasures that were destroyed in the accident. He only wants to be left alone so he can keep from doing any more harm to anyone, and finds comfort in wallowing in his own self-pity and self-recriminations. But when it comes down to it, when lives and the continued existence of Kingsland are depending on him, he finds his inner hero and does what has to be done, no matter how scared he is or how much he doubts his abilities.
We also meet a number of the women in Bryndine’s company. Each of them have a unique personality, background, and goals – they aren’t just cardboard-cutout Female Warriors ™, but they all hold to their ideals and try to do the right thing even in the face of scorn and disapproval from the very people they’re trying to save.
The world is rich in history and lore, and it’s fun to discover its long-hidden secrets alongside Dennon.
The book is well-written, and Dennon’s unique voice comes through clearly and memorably. There’s lots of exciting action to go along with the scholarly mystery, and even just a touch of romance, which I always enjoy. (But it’s a light touch, so if you’re not so much into romantic storylines, don’t let that put you off.)
Highly recommended, especially if you like stories about unconventional heroes, strong heroines, and mysteries of the past.