Review by Noah Barfield

"Pathways: Resurgence is an exciting, and well written, novel with a perfect blend of sci-fi and fantasy. Mr. Akasaka does a fantastic job of combining the two genres into something that resembles Christopher Paolini's Inheritance series in an Ender's Game setting. It's truly wonderful, and I enjoyed the give and take Mr. Akasaka did; giving just enough information to spike your curiosity, but withholding just enough to spark intense debate on forums, which is what almost every author wants.

The Good:
- It's fresh, and yet familiar enough to evoke nostalgia. There are new elements, but ones we've seen in science fiction and fantasy before, that give the novel some credibility.
- You really start to get a feel for Mr. Akasaka's personality by the end of the book.
- A twisting, weaving, plot with diverse characters.
- Two sides of the same story keep things interesting.
- Most of the book is a bit lighter; I don't mean C.S. Lewis or Tolkien light, but it's not George R.R. Martin dark. Well...most of the time. There are intense moments of darkness in this book that really showcase the cruelty of the unique world Mr. Akasaka creates. He makes sure to capitalize on this, and it's a nice contrast.
- A world you want to know more about.
- So much potential.
- The ending. My god the ending. That's all I'll say.


The Not So Good:
- It has little to no action. The action that is in it is wonderful; it's defined and chaotic at once, just as a real fight is. However, the action is far and few between.
- This is a "journey" book. Most of the fight is against the elements, and vague, powerful enemies. If lots of cold, meager rations, and travel by horseback isn't your thing...just skip ahead to the last fourth of the book.
- The two main characters contain similar elements; I believe this reflects Mr. Akasaka's personality, but you do get to see similar traits, and sometimes they can seem like two very similar people, even though they aren't.
- The ending. Ugh. The ending. I love it. I hate it. I curse Mr. Akasaka for writing it, and I can't wait for the sequel.

Overall, Pathways: Resurgence is a fantastic book. It's a slower read, but things start to pick up pace quite quickly, and Mr. Akasaka leaves trails of breadcrumbs that slowly draw more out of his world, characters, and story in very natural ways. If the lack of action, and long journey, doesn't bother you (it didn't bother me), then pick this book up, and don't put it down until you've turned the last page. It truly is the best blend of sci-fi and fantasy I've read in quite some time, and fans of both genres have something they will be sure to enjoy."

 

Review by Matt Varney

In Akasaka’s debut novel, a gentle and optimistic adolescent boy travels on a long journey to find answers and cures - answers to questions he never dreamed of asking before, and cures for what ails the people he most cares about. Noren, the boy at the center of this story, begins in a position of borderline naiveté and shows signs of altruistic tendencies. In the face of the vast, cold world beyond his home, he encounters a constant stream of obstacles. Everything from the onslaught of the physical elements to strange people with evil intent conspire to make his travels difficult. The evil people he encounters are as much baffling as they are terrifying to young Noren, but his mission holds true. Buoyed by his more accomplished companion Ayana, as well as meeting a handful of kind-hearted souls he knew still had to be out there, he uses each of his new experiences as catalysts for learning as he is propelled towards his destiny. Throughout it all, he keeps enough optimism to make you root for him, while his caring tendencies keep him and the story moving.

On his journey, ancient forces are revealed to him as he begins to unlock mysteries and powers within everyone.  The journey is fraught with both harrowing and tension filled episodes that threaten his life, as well as long, languished periods of excruciating hardships associated with far flung travels in desolate areas.  The times of intense action help spur and jumpstart Noren, such as when he faces this particular moment:


Everything was black and Noren’s ears were ringing, and the world was still shaking all around him. The smell of smoke and burning things filled his nostrils, and it sounded like someone nearby was screaming. Someone was talking, and there was a sense of urgency to the voice. The voice was familiar, but he wasn’t able to place it. A jolt struck his body and he felt a stinging sensation on his face. His eyes refused to open and his body felt limp. He heard the same voice from earlier, and another jolting sensation jarred his body. Slowly, the blackness that had encompassed his vision began to brighten, and the outline of a person above him slowly took form.  “Noren!” he heard the person exclaim…….
….The sickly sweet, burning smell from earlier was much stronger, and it turned Noren’s stomach. “Ayana, it’s whoever was following us last night,” he said. “They came back.”

Additionally, the harsh grind of his long travel offers time to reflect and absorb the enormity of a life he never knew he would lead. Discovering powers and abilities that were always possessed but never used moved Noren’s mind in new directions and expanded his world, such as:


Enjoying his newfound ability, he rode onward as the sun began drawing close to the horizon. It started to grow dark. There were still only low-lying plains stretching on for as far as he could make out. Even though he wasn’t looking at anything specifically, he found that he could sense where things were within a certain radius. It didn’t only apply to living beings, he found, but also to rocks and sprouts of grass. He was simply aware of where they were, without even having to concentrate on them. It was invigorating.

The world Noren is discovering, and as we readers get to discover along with him, is fascinating and huge in scope with multiple layers and levels. Noren is just beginning to put the pieces together and the readers long for more exploration in his world. Akasaka delivers a taste of the vast untapped potential of Noren as well as within humanity.

Review by Tim Sparks

Pathways: Resurgence is a fantastic book of journey and discovery. Neal Akasaka blends past and present, science fiction and fantasy, in a page-turning way that kept me reading well into the night.

 

The basic plot: A faceless evil lurks as Noren and Ayana travel a complex world of discovery and reflection. This book weaved themes that had me moving from understanding to confusion to temporary resolution to…the end. I sincerely hope the sequel is already in the works.

 

Pathways: Resurgence invites you to explore a world you do not want to leave. The journey is long and the foes unseen, the action intense and the characters relatable. A superb blend of character development, travel, mystery and action will keep you engaged and wanting more, so much more.

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© 2016 by Neal Akasaka