Who would like to read a tale of knights? Not the knights who served Arthur at the Round Table, but ones who live in the present day? How about a tale of knights who wield not just a sword, but modern day weapons and mystical abilities? Of knights who follow a code of chivalry very much like those of times long past and who serve lords in secret to make the world a better place? Of knights who are now fighting one another due to their code being broken? All of this and more can be found in Kelsey Rae Barthel’s debut novel Beyond the Code.
A secret Order reigns over the world: an Order where Knights with godlike powers keep the world safe while chosen Masters keep the Knights hidden from normal humans. Aurora Fallon is a normal human who supports organizations and universities with charitable donations from her family’s wealth. She is also Luna, one of the most powerful Knights of the Order, who serves her Master, Cole Iver. Luna and Cole are working together to take down Damon Lexus, a Master who has acquired many powerful Knights in a way that goes against the Code of what all Knights and Masters should stand for. When Damon orders the assassination of Cole and Luna is unable to save him, Luna finds herself in a dark place, seeking only the revenge of the one responsible for her Master’s horrific death. When she is brought back to the light by a Hunter sent to kill her, both will form an unlikely alliance to bring Damon to justice and restore the Knight’s Code before it is utterly broken.
Barthel has thoroughly impressed on her debut and has added another excellent addition to the Inkshares library for 2018. Her use of detail is to be commended for she does not give too much detail nor too little. She paints a beautiful picture with her words, making readers believe they are witnessing everything with their own eyes. And how she writes battle scenes… a breath of fresh air in the fantasy world! Any fan of fantasy looks forward to battles which seem easier to accomplish in movies, but is always a struggle when writing them out in books. In each of Barthel’s battle sequences, readers can visualize how the fighters duel within their minds and can even sense the emotions each of the fighters are enduring throughout the battle. While Barthel has succeeded in a difficult aspect of fantasy writing, she is also to be commended on the fact that she did not overload her story with too many battle scenes. There is the perfect combination of battles and prose and dialog, making for an enjoyable fantasy read.
Beyond the Code has a very intriguing premise with its modern-day Knights. These Knights do fight with swords like the ones found in stories of medieval times, but these Knights also fight with guns and technology found in today’s world. They also fight with magic, for each Knight has a unique magical ability they can use during battle. Kind of like X-Men, but with Knights. And the bonds between Knights and their Masters holds a similar trait to the bond found between Servants and their Masters in the Fate anime series. But even with these similarities to other stories, Barthel’s story stands firmly on its own. It is original, well-thought-out, and very well-executed. The story flows smoothly from one chapter to the next and is not predictable in the slightest. It is a story that will keep readers wanting to know what happens next. It is also the first in a series of unknown length that Barthel will hopefully continue in the near future.
The number of main characters is limited and each chapter jumps between characters, normally focusing on two or more at a time, expanding and developing each one’s personality and traits. Barthel has made it easy to follow each character and does an excellent job with her characters’ development. Characters such as Luna and Ranger go through very believable development. Both were in a good place in their lives, but then they lose something or someone that brings them down to a very dark place. They are able to find their way out of the dark by helping one another. Other characters like Damon Lexus will make people want to learn more about their character. Damon is an incredibly intriguing villain and one readers will find themselves liking, yet wanting to learn more about her sinister intentions. And then other characters readers will start to become acquainted with, but then not get the chance to learn more about them because they are killed. Barthel has proved to be another writer who does not ensure the safety of all of her characters, including main ones. Another breath of fresh air in the writing world.
For anyone looking for a new fantasy read, Beyond the Code is the next book readers should pick up. The talented Barthel offers a fascinating story executed with beautiful detailed descriptions, epic battle sequences, and well-developed characters. The story will hold one’s attention from page one all the way to the end. Upon completion, it may leave readers with questions about certain characters or certain aspects of the story, but with this being only the first book in a series, hopefully future books will answer these questions. This is in no way a bad thing for readers will most likely close the book, thinking, “All right, I am happy, but I want to know what happens next.”
Originally published at rolloutreviews.com on March 11, 2018.