Humble Beginnings by John F. Thomas is one that takes you on a journey of fantasy and realism that any and everyone can relate to and indulge in. The attention to specificity is like a 3D world written on paper. Excited to read about the next journey the characters will embark on.
This was a great read. It's a pleasure to see someone with passion follow their dreams. Ready for more
Humble Beginnings is the first book in a series about a young boy named John Prodigy, who is constantly bullied at school and feels like an outsider in his hometown. In this first episode, we come to know John and the things that motivate him. We also watch him struggle not only with himself, but with finding out where he belongs in the world and wondering if he has anything to offer.
This first episode serves as a promising introduction to the future additions in this series. Humble Beginnings starts with a short prologue that takes place six years before the action of the main story. It is a somewhat cryptic opener, but there was enough mystery and intrigue presented to keep me turning pages.
One of the biggest strengths of this episode is how easy it is to sympathize with John. He is a classic underdog and the target of bullies. As the story unfolds, we witness how John becomes motivated by those bullying experiences, vowing to protect others who are also in need, and to somehow make the world a better place. That may have been a small moment in comparison to others in the episode, but it was one that immediately put me on John’s side and made him a relatable character who is easy to root for. The relationships that John has with his mother, the townspeople, and his new friend, were also endearing elements of his character that could make the story as a whole resonant with a wider audience.
Despite John’s relatability and the dynamic relationships he has with the small number of people in his life, there were ultimately a few hang-ups in Humble Beginnings: Episode One that kept me from being completely immersed in the story.
First, and the most important, there was never a firm sense of place in the episode. I longed for clearer descriptions of John’s school, home, and town. So much so, I never found my footing when it came to these locations.
In addition, with mentions of words like “Emperor” and “Affinities” and “Affinity Trials” there are not-so-subtle nods to the fact that this is a fantastical world in which John resides. However, most of these terms were mentioned off-handedly, and the conversations that followed between the characters did little to clarify the meanings of these terms or provide any background information about their greater context in the story as a whole. It was as though I was expected to know and understand the intricacies of this world already when it hadn’t been defined yet.
While reading many conversations between the characters, or even after reading some of John’s inner thoughts, it felt like I was new to this world, lost without a map and one step behind all of the action. While John was a strong character, he never became the anchor I was hoping for—someone to pull me into the story to help me understand what was happening. Instead, I was left to fend for myself in confusion, with little-to-no explanation, with more questions and concerns than anticipation.
Another element that kept me from becoming fully immersed in the story was the choice of tense. Humble Beginnings: Episode One is told in the third person, present tense. While there is of course nothing wrong with that, the criticisms that I had in regard to a sense of place were even more noticeable because of the choice to tell the story in present tense and the inescapable immediacy that comes with that. Background information was forgone in this episode concerning all of the characters, John included, which did not allow for a chance to know what kind of characters they are outside of this present day story that is supposed to be happening right now.
There is more than enough material in Humble Beginnings: Episode One for the author to work with, and many storylines and backgrounds to flesh out as the episodes go along. It will be interesting to see the direction The Prodigy Series takes now, and the ways in which John will attempt to find his place in the world.