Book Review: The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Koboldt

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Quinn Bradley is a Vegas magician. His dream in life is to headline at a casino on the strip and he’s finally got a shot to make the big time–until a powerful and mysterious corporation blocks him out. They want him to themselves, to go through a secret portal into another world and impersonate a guild magician in order to retrieve a rogue official. The problem is that in this new world, magicians aren’t illusionists, but wield real power and the penalty for impersonating one is death.

Quinn goes through the portal with the others on the mission, but things go wrong from the start. A dragon attack, a pack of wild dogs, a closed portal, loss of communication with the company on the other side, and a trap waiting for them, and that’s just the first day. They chase a ghost through groups of mercenaries and highwaymen only to find the rogue official is already three steps ahead. And Quinn pays the price when the magicians guild captures him.

In a strange and fortuitous turn of events, the magician who captures Quinn senses a spark of true magic in him. Instead of immediate execution, the guild gets to see what Quinn has to offer. If he can convince them he’s more than just razzle-dazzle he gets to keep his life, but he needs to do so before another group of rogues kills his comrades and destroys the portal, locking him in this strange world forever.

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This was a good book. The characters were well-developed. Some plot points were predictable, but they were done with flair. I would recommend it to a lot of the readers I know. It didn’t quite grasp me the way I hoped it would, but I can’t put my finger on why.

First, the things I liked about the book.

Genre-bending. Is it Fantasy? Is it is Science Fiction? The truth is this story sports a little of both and I love that.

A cast that isn’t lily white or without distinctive character voices. There were two characters with similar voices, but they were still distinctive enough not to be confused. I like when characters aren’t cardboard cutouts of each other just taking up space in the background. I cared about each character’s struggles.

There were unanswered questions that didn’t make the novel into something that couldn’t stand alone, but left enough room so that the sequels (it is the first in a series) make sense and already have a pull.

Not everyone magically survives battles, wars, or thugs and those that do aren’t unscathed emotionally. It feels more real when the characters have scars.

Now for the things I wasn’t so keen on.

The admiration Chaudri has for Holt and the questions about their relationship allude to a workplace romance. I dislike the colleague romance tropes. It’s just not my thing. To be fair, it seems pretty one-sided and not like an abuse of power.

I like romantic subplots and there was one here, but it was an afterthought. That is a plus for a lot of readers. More power to you.

That’s pretty much it. It has a lot going for it, and I suspect if I read it on a different week than I did (I was busy and distracted) I’d have loved it instantly. And truthfully, I care enough about the characters that I’m still interested in the sequels. So when I say it didn’t grip me, don’t let that turn you off. I stand by my first statement. It’s a good book.

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