Welcome, one and all, to another MDM Projects book review. Today, I’m looking at The Wayward Astronomer by Geoffrey Thomas. This is a spin-off novel from David and Liz Lillie’s graphic novel series, Dreamkeepers, and is available in hardback format.
Background: Geoffrey Thomas is an American author and blogger. The Wayward Astronomer, released on 9th May 2017 by Corvus Publishing, is his debut novel.
The story follows Hal Adhil and his friend Miri. Initially, things are pretty peaceful for the pair, even if they do have to hide the secret that Hal is an awakened Dreamkeeper. You see, in the world Anduruna, all people have the potential to awaken special powers. In Hal’s case, it gives him the ability to visualise the wavelengths of light. While itself fairly harmless, the power does lead the pair to a meteor … and so begins a period of major upheaval that will alter their lives forever.
The Good: My reviews of Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Dreamkeepers Graphic Novel Saga confirm that I’m a big fan of David Lillie’s art. This novel being part of the world that he has created, David has provided illustrations for the pages. I don’t want to spend too long focussing on this, as this is first and foremost a novel rather than a graphic novel, but I will say this: David’s work loses nothing in black and white, and the art provided for the start and end of each chapter really adds to the overall quality of the book.
Now, onto the story. It would be fair to question whether you need to have read the aforementioned graphic novels to understand The Wayward Astronomer. To that I would say that, while fans of the comics will certainly enjoy the story, it’s set up in such a way that you don’t need any prior knowledge of the world to enjoy it. Relevant points regarding laws, locations and technology are provided in both the story itself and the bonus material at the back of the book, so diving in here will definitely not leave you feeling too lost. That is definitely a positive.
The story itself is also marvellously paced, with even the slower moments speeding by as you read. In truth, had I not had other commitments, I would have likely finished this in one sitting, such was the ease of reading. The action scenes are well executed too. Of particular note is a scene about two thirds of the way through the book that is essentially the literary equivalent of a finale to the early Chow Yun-Fat/John Woo Hong Kong Blood Opera collaborations. That was certainly impressive.
As to the characters themselves, conversations never feel stilted, and each clearly has their own voice, which is a plus. Hal is a sarcastic little blighter at times, and I love his design (anthropomorphic velociraptor with a tail that features eyes and a mouth), and Miri, a purple haired anthro fox, is a good foil for him. The villains of the piece (I won’t name them as that would fall into spoiler territory) are an interesting bunch and certainly not unsympathetic, if at times misguided in their actions.
Also, the ending is pretty strong. While slower than the moments that preceded it, it gives a satisfactory conclusion to the tale and shows two characters finding a way to work together to provide balance in their lives.
The Bad: There are a few plot twists that you may see coming. While not strictly an issue, certainly from my standpoint, that may disappoint some. As always with this series too, I would say that the violence is worth noting, simply because many still view anthropomorphic animals as being within the realms of children’s fiction. Do not get this confused in that way, it is far from a children’s book.
In truth, there was only really one thing that bugged me with the book. I have no personal objections to good guys doing bad things, in fact, I am of the school of thought that it can add to a hero if they’re sometimes faced with such situations. There are some lines that I don’t tend to like heroes to cross though, as it moves them from hero to villain for me. Hal crosses one of those lines here. Again, I won’t say what happened, that would constitute a spoiler, but I will say that it made it harder to root for me to root for Hal in the final third of the book. In a way, this is counter-acted by Miri being such a sympathetic companion character for Hal, but it was still a step too far for me personally. This is subjective though, and I know that the scene in question will not cause an issue for many others, which is absolutely fine.
Final View: The Wayward Astronomer is a worthy addition to the Dreamkeepers universe. It captures the feel of the main series well, and provides a fast-paced, exciting tale with a colourful cast of characters. In all, this is a solid debut from Geoffrey Thomas, and is well worth recommending, whether you’re a fan of the original graphic novels or not.
Final Score: 4 / 5