Editorial Review: When The Stone Shepherds Awaken by Mark Barkley
Book One of The Sabienn Feel Adventures starts off with a bang, the reader is thrown headfirst into the violent fray of a world masterfully crafted by Mark Barkley.
Sabienn Feel, a thieving cheat working his way through the cadet academy towards greatness, is on the fast track but finds himself suddenly at odds with everything he ever expected... when he grows a pair of wings. In a world devoted to the Great Leader, on a planet two generations separated from Earth, his country is preparing for war. Sabienn is determined to get a black wolf tattoo – an official mark of the realm – no matter what. So, disregarding the official block on his request, Sabienn convinces a tattoo studio to go against the law. Nothing seems to go right after leaving the studio; Sabienn gets into several fights, fails to get lucky, and most weirdly – starts to have visions of the past when he picks up objects, and to and hear voices.
These visions show him a historic event occurring very differently than how the Great Leader tells the story, and show him details of his birth that he was not expecting. As it turns out, the visions are a prelude to the wings that suddenly erupt from Sabienn’s back.
Sabienn is used to people being in awe of his perfect body, but once the wings emerge, this is no longer the case. Seen as a freak, Sabienn is something to be feared – something to be killed. However, Sabienn quickly figures out that he is not the only one his age to suddenly sprout these wings in accordance to a prophecy of ten thousand years ago.
With a huge divide in the castes and a complex history, When The Stone Shepherds Awaken was clearly planned to be the first in a long series. Mark Barkley has set this plan out well, with distinct races and countries and a long enough cast of characters that each will likely play an interesting role down the line.
With a distaste for technology, which they feel simultaneously grants no political advantage and too much freedom to the masses, the new world government has intentionally curbed technological advancement. This somewhat renders this a quasi-dystopia, complete with book burning and an all-powerful Great Leader, the world Sabienn Feel inhabits is an interesting blend of medieval aesthetics and heavy futuristic sci-fi.
An adventure story of epic proportions, Mark Barkley has started a true saga with this initial installment.