The Akachi clan has a new leader, as Amare has taken the title of chief after the death of his father. No sooner has he accepted the role than problems begin to multiply. There are questions of succession to contend with, demons lurking in the night, and the basic needs of the clan to see to. If the clan is to survive, they must move as well. Their lands are no longer safe, but they face a hostile clan to one side and a pair of warring neighbors to the other. It doesn’t take long for Amare to find himself in over his head as he fights for his people’s survival.
There is a lot of potential in He Who Leads, particularly in the world M.A.N. has created. Magic systems are complicated and often difficult to write, but the powers of Umoya are as interesting as they are different. It’s hard to assign the story to a specific genre, since it begins in what would seem like a fantasy world and evolves to feature characters who talk about antimatter and electricity. But overall this is one of the book’s main selling points.
The prose moves extremely quickly, which makes it a fast read, but also somewhat unformed. M.A.N. spares extremely little time for description or reflection, moving from rapid-fire dialogue to brusque sequences of action with no pause in between. Scenes are so short the story almost reads like a fable rather than a novel. Despite the fact that it is written in second person, the book feels strangely impersonal, as there is not enough between the bones of the story for the reader to connect intimately with the narrative.
Further editing would have helped this book considerably, especially since there is a tense shift in the very first paragraph, one of the most heavily-reviewed segments of any story. Readers will need patience with grammatical errors and some very inventive sentence construction. Although sentence fragments and other technically incorrect creations can be useful in modern prose, it’s very easy to overdo it, which is the case here, as sentence splices are a major problem throughout.
Additionally, dramatic emphasis relies almost entirely on ellipses. Again, although there is nothing technically wrong with ellipses, five on the first page is a bit excessive, especially when the author is trying to fill in the entire setting and backstory over a few paragraphs. Incorrect dialogue punctuation and other regular errors distract from the story throughout the story as well.
If you’re a fan of anime and don’t need perfect grammar to enjoy a good yarn, this book may be right up your alley. The battle scenes have the scale, drama, and style of grandiose anime fights, and the characters are clear-cut and distinctive. It’s a fun read, and plot flies by at breakneck speed. Despite some fundamental grammatical issues, He Who Leads is a quick entertaining read for anyone looking for an original world with complex fighting, unique magic, and an intriguing blend of genres.
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